After a much-needed break from blogging over the past couple of weeks, I’m happy to pop back in today and welcome début author, Ewa Ramsey, to the attic. Ewa’s novel, The Morbids, was recently released by Allen and Unwin.
In this piece, Ewa muses about the reasons she writes, and the reasons she didn’t. And what a rich vein to mine it is!
Writing is hard work. It’s slow, overwhelming, it bruises your confidence, and I could go on and on. Yet, we persist. So why?
There are many good lines in this piece, but my favourite answers this: ‘I started to get really scared of what my life would look like if I didn’t write ever again.’
And this, I think, is why we could never give it up.
I hope you enjoy!
Ewa is an emerging writer and arts administrator based in Newcastle, NSW. She has presented short fiction at the National Young Writers Festival, won a commendation in the Newcastle Short Story Award, and been a finalist in the Newcastle Herald Short Story Competition. She has also written for PC&Tech Authority, and worked as an editorial assistant and pop-culture writer and reviewer for Atomic Magazine. She is currently Operations Manager for the Newcastle Writers Festival and on the board of the National Young Writers Festival. Her first novel, The Morbids, is out now with Allen & Unwin.
Not Writing Made Me The Writer I Am
and Other Scary Stories
As a début novelist on the publicity trail, there are a few questions that come up over and over — questions about my process, or ideas, or what I’m planning to write next — but none stump me so thoroughly as: ‘Why do you write?’ On its surface, it’s simple, and I have several pre-prepared answers. But still, I hesitate.
I write because I enjoy the process of creating something from nothing; because I like making up stories and writing is more socially acceptable than daydreaming or talking to yourself; because I feel like I have something to say. I write because, sometimes, I think I’m not bad at it.
I write because it’s a way to process things that I haven’t processed any other way, and it’s cheaper than therapy.
All of these things are true, but they’re not the whole truth. They treat writing like any other hobby, like it’s something you do because, on some fundamental level, it’s fun – like ballroom dancing, or baking biscuits.
For me, writing is the hardest, most challenging thing that I do on a voluntary basis. It might be cheaper than therapy, but it’s also one of the main reasons I’m in therapy. It has the potential to make me feel worse about myself than anything else that I do – and it regularly does. When it’s not going well, it makes me feel truly hopeless. When it is, it’s somehow even worse, any feelings of happiness drowned out by self-doubt and imposter syndrome. And still, I do it.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I can remember wanting to be anything. I wrote all the time – filled notebooks with short stories and longer stories and very adolescent versions of ‘novels’, annoyed my parents until they let me do creative writing classes and my teachers until they let me start school magazines and my friends until they read my stuff. It was the one thing I wanted to do.
Then at some point I didn’t.
There was no event, no setback, no scathing feedback or overheard mocking or life-altering realisation. Real life is never so neat. There was just fear. Every time I thought about writing, I felt afraid, and so I stopped doing it.
I didn’t write fiction for nearly fifteen years. Sometimes I scratched my writing itch in other ways – by blogging, writing news pieces for magazines I was producing, and later by ranting on social media – but never fiction. I told the characters in my head to shush and got on with my life, fear-free.
For the most part, it worked. Not writing was easy. I filled my life with other hobbies and I felt calm and steady and normal – if there is such a thing. I still had bouts of anxiety but everything felt manageable. Life went on. Life was good. I got married. Had kids. Moved cities. Made friends. Bought a house. Renovated it. All those grown-up things.
But amid all the good grown-up things, there was something missing. I was in my early thirties and it felt like everyone around me knew what they wanted to do with their lives and I still had no idea.
Okay, I had one idea.
So, at thirty-four, I started writing again. Blogging, at first. I volunteered for a writers festival and then another one and in between I wrote more and more. Short stories. Fiction. I let the characters in my head talk and I wrote down what they said and some of what they said felt like it might be good, and when I talked to other writers I mentioned that I wrote too and they were kind and welcoming, and encouraged me to share my work, even though I wasn’t sure I ever could.
I still felt the fear. Worse, this time, because it was bundled up with a whole lot of guilt and disappointment in myself for giving into it. Worse because it felt like my last chance – I know people take up writing much later in life and do great things, but for me, it felt like I was running out of time. I felt like I had to do this, I had to know if I could.
I felt the fear, but more than that I felt the fear of not doing it. I started to get really scared of what my life would look like if I didn’t write ever again.
So the whole truth is this: I write for all the reasons above. But more than that, I write because I know what it’s like not to write. I know that if I’m not writing, I’m not living my fullest life. I write because writing is scary but it’s not as scary as not writing.
I may not “make it” as a writer. I may never have anything else published again. That’s a risk I understand. The odds of being able to do this for years and make anything of it are incredibly slim, but they only drop to zero if I stop.
And so I don’t. I write. It’s hard and it’s scary and it keeps me in therapy, but I keep doing it, because ultimately I know that not doing it is so much worse. Why do I write? Because I have to. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.