[Originally published in January 2012, this insightful essay by Catherine McKenzie (SPIN, Arranged, Forgotten, Hidden, SPUN, Smoke, and latest, popularly/critically acclaimed Fractured. In other words, seven published novels in less seven years and that does not include The Murder Game with Catherine writing as Julie Apple, the main character of Fractured), she shares the reasons of why she writes.]
A while ago, an author friend of mine, who was feeling a bit of writing ennui, expressed the possibility of giving it all up. He was tired of the late nights writing after his day job, and since his books, while critically acclaimed, weren’t selling as well as Dan Brown’s, he wondered why he was putting in all this effort. “I’m not doing this for my ego,” he said, and those words have stuck with me ever since.
They’ve stuck with me though I admit that my first reaction was skepticism. My first book had just come out, and if I’m being honest, the month of January 2010 was pretty full of ego. (In fact, I dubbed it “the month of me” and was thoroughly sick of myself by February). But at that moment, I remember thinking that the whole act of publishing a book -— from writing, to getting an agent, to getting a book deal—had to be at least partially about ego.
And, of course, it is. But the more I thought about it, and the further I got past my own publication date, I began to understand what he meant. You see, that first novel, that first real novel that you get the agent and the book deal with, that novel isn’t written because of ego. I suspect it might be a little different in every case, but in my own, that novel was written because I couldn’t help myself. It was (often) all I could think about. What was this character going to do? How was I going to get from this conflict to the resolution? How was I going to get the images in my mind, seemingly so clear, down on the page when the link between my brain and my fingers often felt ephemeral. I was, in my own way, like Dylan, trying to capture “that wild mercury sound” in my head with words. And the effort, while sometimes trying and frustrating, was in the main fun.