Why I Never Wanted to be a Writer

A few truths about writing that need to be written about.

Writing is tricky business. If you are a writer, the odds are you've also had these moments of doubt and feelings of insecurity. Who do you write for? It doesn't matter whether you're a travel writer, journalist, or fiction author—at one time or another, the question comes up and you suddenly wonder “would this be what I'd be writing if I wasn't seeking a career, a publishing contract, or just plain ol' readership?”

It's always nice to get any number of these things. For the majority of my life, I wrote without an audience. I kept a journal that I secretly hoped someone would find when I was long gone. Then, I found blogging and the search was on to find the best platform to share my ideas (and if I was lucky, be paid for them). Since then, I've heard a lot of tips from writers—usually writers that profit from writing about writing—and realized that the majority of them aren't out to help aspiring writers at all.

For example, the age-old saying of “write what you know,” has never done me any justice. It seems like common sense, but it's also common sense that it's awfully boring writing what you know. Personally, and I think this is the best, most honest advice a writer can give another writer: you should write what you want to know. This goes for subjects you're interested in, characters or worlds you'd like to explore, and anything else you can think of (and write about!) What this does is allow you to know yourself through examination of life itself.

People always talk about developing a voice for yourself. This is the voice you use to speak up in classrooms and ask for something from your parents. But when you're an adult, this voice explains things to customers, talks about yourself in interviews, gets you out of a speeding ticket, teaches the students in your classroom, and makes acceptance speeches for when you win that Oscar.

Oh, and it helps that you can be personable in social situations too.

As a writer, my voice is through text.

This means I sound coherent on paper, on screens, or even mobile devices. However, when I speak, my sentences are all grammatically incorrect, I can't think of the words I want to use, and even my punctuation comes out as an embarrassment.

The good thing is, on paper, I don't just have one voice.

I have many.

One for each genre of fiction, one for each form of nonfiction.

Not to mention, my experimental prose voice (which ironically resembles my speaking voice).

Through poetry, my voice is imagery and its form (or lack thereof) are its tools.

My fictional characters become my voice, and my voice gives life to my characters. I may not be able to present myself as these characters in cafes and dinner parties, but my voice will be heard long after the event is over.

Sure, there are benefits to writing.

But I never wanted to become a writer, because in spite of all these benefits, labels like: science fiction, historical romance, horror, contemporary literary fiction . . . .

They break mine and many other authors' voices up.

Into a million different pieces.

And categories.

I wish I could talk over the separate conversations that these genres are having with a voice that can reach every single one.

I understand the function of these classifications and how simpler things are when these categories exist. And I guess I have to accept that my voice will likely be the voice of ten different pen names (if I'm lucky to be that successful).

But, if you are reading this, then you are hearing my voice.

And that gives me hope.  

Helen Kirkby

Helen Kirkby is an Asian-American woman currently living in Los Angeles with her husband. She is a part-time artist and full-time writer.

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Why I Never Wanted to be a Writer