When people find out I write, they ask me, “What’s that like?” Usually I’m at a loss. Writing is so much a part of me and who I am, I can’t really separate it enough to look at it. All I can come up with as a reply, usually, are amorphous answers that I’m never certain of so I always word them almost as questions. “It’s…uh…fun?”
Recently I dug a little deeper. I was actually trying to remember what the last book I read was—other than my own—and how I used to love reading. It drove me nuts to be caught somewhere without a book. When I was a kid in school, I was always the first one to hand in my math test and then I’d pull out whatever novel I was currently reading (or re-reading). And get lost in it. Remember that old line by libraries and teachers and literacy organizations, “Books take you places”? When I was a kid, books took me all over the world.
And now that I’m an adult and a professional (albeit only marginally successful) writer, I realized something that nobody ever told me before about writing. When you write a book, it takes you places, too.
Only it’s better.
Yep, that’s what it’s like to be a writer. It’s like being a reader, only better. Yes, it’s hard work. There are days I despair of ever writing two coherent words in a row. There are days when writing sentence after sentence is more arduous mentally than plowing a field with a mule and a hand plow is physically. Writing can be so exhausting it’s frightening. It can hurt. But it’s good. In fact, it’s wonderful.
It takes you places.
I’ve set my books in places I’ve never been like New York (I’ve been twice since, but I’d never been there before I wrote Secrets of the Lotus) and Greece (part of Saturday Love). And I’ve set them in places where I’ve been and long to go back like the Caribbean in Island Magic and Las Vegas (Close Up Magic and Escape Magic). And I’ve set them in places I’ve lived like Hillsborough, N.C. (Where the Heart Lies) and my hometown of Brevard, N.C. (Tracks in the Sand). And each and every time, when I would sit down to write, my book would take me there.
So now I guess I have a reply. “What’s it like to write? Why do I do it?” Because writing is like reading. It takes you places. What makes it better is that you get to take your readers along with you for the journey.