Why I Write

Last week, author Stephanie Verni challenged five authors to share five reasons why we write. That was a really good challenge--it took me a week to decide on my top five!

Even though I've been writing stories in one form or another for most of my life, the "why" behind my writing changes from time to time. Here are just five of the reasons I love to write:

Why I Write || from the Ellen Smith Writes blog www.ellensmithwrites.com

1. Writing turns tiny, fleeting thoughts into something real and permanent

I almost always have a blank book going where I can jot down anything that crosses my mind. Some years of my life are pretty well-recorded with diary entries for every week, if not every day. Other years, my blank books are mostly a collection of doodles, story ideas, dreams I want to remember, and other bits and pieces of my life. Occasionally I go back and read through these books, either to remember some real detail of my own life or to dig up an old story idea--both are equally likely.

For the same reason, I keep all the old drafts of my books (Just to give you an idea of how much paperwork that is, I have nine drafts of the book I'm working on currently, plus notes). I reference these old drafts all the time, just in case I find I've edited out some character background or something like that. It's fun to see how much the story has changed over time, too!

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect." Anais Nin || from "Why I Write" on the Ellen Smith Writes blog www.ellensmithwrites.com

2. Writing is an adventure of self-discovery

Sometimes I think my books know more about me than I do.

I may think that I know how I feel about a certain issue, like healthcare, or criminal justice, or even just small-town politics. Then I decide to write about it and I realize how much I really don't know. By the time I finish doing my research, I can guarantee I've learned something. By the time I complete the final draft, I've learned a lot!

One interesting consequence of writing the Time Wrecker Trilogy has been learning more about a variety of issues. For example, I hadn't spent nearly enough time considering how criminal justice really works in America. I hadn't thought as much about the concept of healing before, either, both from intended and unintended injuries. I'm curious to see how I'll feel about these issues by the time I'm done writing the third book! 

"The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe." Gustave Flaubert || From "Why I Write" on the Ellen Smith Writes blog www.ellensmithwrites.com

3. Writing is all about possibility

The first time someone called me a science fiction writer, I thought they'd mistaken me for someone else. I didn't feel like I was making up very much about the physical world in my stories, and compared to many science fiction authors, I really don't. The worlds I write about are only slightly different from this one. Take a small town in southern Virginia, and add a woman who can see the future: now you have Reluctant Cassandra. Take Washington, DC over the past decade, but make it possible to use time travel for criminal rehabilitation: now we're in the Time Wrecker Trilogy. I love taking these tiny steps outside reality. And according to one of my favorite authors of all time, that is science fiction. (Thanks, Ray Bradbury.)

"Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn't exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible." Ray Bradbury || From "Why I Write" on the Ellen Smith Writes blog www.ellensmithwrites.com

4. Writing is my creative outlet

I've dabbled in just about every creative hobby out there: music, sewing, paper crafts, crochet, baking...but I always come back to writing.

There is something in me that needs to create. I can hold it over by doing little projects around the house, like cooking dinner or practicing the piano. But eventually, I'll need to sit down and carve out time just to be creative. I love working as a freelance writer because it allows me to fill that creative need so often, but I balance it with fiction writing, too. Of all the ways to be creative, writing is the one that suits me best.

"And the idea of just wandering off to a cafe with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for awhile is just bliss." J .K. Rowling || From "Why I Write" on the Ellen Smith Writes blog www.ellensmithwrites.com

5. I have to write. There's an idea that just won't let go.

This is my very favorite reason to write. Sometimes I'll have a story idea percolating in the back of my mind for months (or years...) and then suddenly it becomes a story I have to tell. That's the really fun part, when I'm racing to my notebook or my computer to write down some little scene I just imagined, or I'll be driving and suddenly figure out a plot twist. If I had to pick one reason why I write, this would be it. I know the story is already there: I just have to write it down.

"An idea in the head is like a rock in the shoe; I just can't wait to get it out." Phyllis Reynolds Naylor || From "Why I Write" on the Ellen Smith Writes blog www.ellensmithwrites.com

10 Quotes from Influential Millennials

We all know the tired rhetoric about the millennial generation. We're entitled. Lazy. Spoiled. Obsessed with taking selfies and ignorant about the rest of the world.

As I said last week, millennials may have a bad reputation in our youth (just like all the generations before us), but that's not the whole story. We connect with each other constantly, which means we're aware of social issues that affect us around the globe. We've struggled to find work during the recession, which means we've taken on second jobs, side hustles, and even started our own businesses. We're well-informed, conscientious, and very, very hard-working.

Here are ten quotes from influencers that show us what it means to be a millennial:

10 Quotes from Influential Millennials || www.ellensmithwrites.com

(Click on the image below to move through the slideshow. Enjoy!)

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4 Literary Quotes on New Beginnings

I love January. After the December holidays are over, I feel ready to start the new year off on the right foot. I clean up my workspace, break out a new calendar, and imagine all the things that could happen in the new year.

This January, the season of new beginnings coincides with where I am in my writing life. Last year I drafted all three novels of the trilogy I'm working on. I took a break from writing for the holidays--it's good to recharge--and rang in the New Year by going back to the beginning of Book 1. As I edit and rewrite, I'm starting to feel really connected to these characters and excited about putting the finishing touches on their story.

Well, I'm mostly excited. Editing a rough draft is a lot like looking back at old pictures of yourself. Sometimes you look back and think, "Wow, that was a really great day. I love this picture." Sometimes you look back and think, "Really? Those jeans? That lipstick? What was I thinking?"

So as I'm beginning this new year and taking a fresh look at my work-in-progress, I decided to look for a little inspiration. Here are four quotes on new beginnings from some of my favorite writers:

4 Literary Quotes on New Beginnings | ellensmithwrites.com

T. S. Eliot

Eliot seems to have the words for every occasion. He was one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, even though we're still trying to figure out what to make of him. Case in point: he wrote both The Hollow Men and The Triumph of Bullshit. Didn't learn about that second poem in Literature class, did you?

Anyway, here are his (PG-rated) lines about welcoming the new year:

T.S. Eliot quote on new beginnings | ellensmithwrites.com

Mary Shelley

We all know Mary Shelley as the author of the horror story Frankenstein, but her own life wasn't too sunny, either. Her mother died shortly after Mary was born, her father remarried a woman who didn't care for her, and she met and started a relationship with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was just a teenager. Whatever may have inspired this quote, it's a great reminder that every day is a chance to begin again.

Mary Shelley quote on new beginnings | ellensmithwrites.com

Annie Prouix

Prouix's Pulitzer-prize-winning novel The Shipping News is entirely about new beginnings. Quoyle and his two daughters relocate to the family home in Newfoundland, where they each try to make a fresh start during the cold, stormy winter. Maybe that's why this quote strikes me as especially lovely at this time of year:

Annie Prouix quote on new beginnings | 5 Literary Quotes on New Beginnings from ellensmithwrites.com

L.M. Montgomery

I love L.M. Montgomery's novel Anne of Green Gables. Anne is imaginative, headstrong, tempermental--but most of all, she's hopeful. No matter how many times Anne gets into trouble, she's always ready and willing to learn and try again. This line is spoken by Anne to her adoptive guardian Marilla:

L.M. Montgomery quote on new beginnings | ellensmithwrites.com


It's a new year--and even better than that, today is a new day. Write on.

Creative Inspiration: 10 Essential Quotes for Authors

Between freelancing and fiction writing, I write about 2,000 words a day on average. They aren't always the right words (don't even ask how many words I delete per day...) but in order to reach my goals, that's been my schedule for the last three years.

(If you want to make writing 2,000 words a day part of your schedule too, I highly recommend an ergonomic keyboard.)

In order to maintain that kind of schedule, I learned early on that writing can't be the only creative thing I do each day. Spending a little time on a different creative hobby helps me recharge and refocus. Sometimes it's playing piano, baking, sewing, or even just doodling for awhile. It's all part of being a left-brained writer and right-brained author. Doing creative work goes hand-in-hand with living a creative lifestyle.

With that in mind, this week I've rounded up some of my favorite quotes on imagination and creativity. If you're feeling stuck on a project or just need a reminder to go out and create, I hope this list will help you get started!

First up, the one and only Albert Einstein explains the importance of imagination. I love this quote. It reminds me that no matter how left-brained my current writing project is, it's still important to engage and value my right-brained approach.

Albert Einstein quote- "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination." From the ellensmithwrites blog: Creative inspiration- 10 Essential Quotes for Authors

In fact, creativity is often the place where we're able to express our deepest thoughts and ponder the big questions.

Akira Kurosawa quote- "To be an artist means never to avert one's eyes." From the ellensmithwrites blog: Creative inspiration- 10 Essential Quotes for Authors

Maybe that's why everyone, from every walk of life, has the urge to create and express themselves through art.

Patti Digh quote- "If you're alive, you're creative." From the ellensmithwrites blog: Creative inspiration- 10 Essential Quotes for Authors

Not to mention that the creative life is not for the faint of heart. Just look at how River Fairchild describes creativity:

River Fairchild quote- "To be creative is to look madness in the eye and challenge it to a spitting contest." From the ellensmithwrites blog: Creative inspiration- 10 Essential Quotes for Authors

Letting go and really pouring ourselves into a project requires a lot of bravery. Some days it's harder than others to silence the inner critic.

From the ellensmithwrites blog: Creative inspiration- 10 Essential Quotes for Authors

Taking time to create also reminds us of why we do what we do. What are we truly passionate about? What are we trying to say, and why do we need to say it?

Yo-Yo Ma quote "Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you're passionate about something, then you're more willing to take risks." From the ellensmithwrites blog: Creative inspiration- 10 Essential Quotes for Authors

Some would even say that creativity is more than self-expression: it's a challenge.

Twyla Tharp quote- "Creativity is an act of defiance." From the ellensmithwrites blog: Creative inspiration- 10 Essential Quotes for Authors

Regardless, it seems everyone can agree that allowing yourself to be creative is a gutsy move.

Henri Matisse quote- "Creativity takes courage." From the ellensmithwrites blog: Creative inspiration- 10 Essential Quotes for Authors

And just in case it seems that goofing off with other creative pursuits takes away time and energy from your primary goals, remember this:

Maya Angelou quote- "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." From the ellensmithwrites blog: Creative inspiration- 10 Essential Quotes for Authors

One might even say we have a responsibility to follow our dreams and create.

Michelle Dennis Evans quote- "What if the very reason you were created was to be creative?" From the ellensmithwrites blog: Creative inspiration- 10 Essential Quotes for Authors

Do you find that spending time on other creative hobbies helps you recharge? If you have a creative job, what creative hobbies do you do to recharge? Let me know in the comments!