Why I Write: A Guest Post By Carolyn Astfalk

I only recently pondered why I write. I simply knew that I had to write, so I did.

My love affair with the written word started with clumsily-illustrated stories and spelling bees and grew to student newspapers in grade school, high school, and college. My affection for pen and ink led me to try my hand at calligraphy. During summer visits, I sat spellbound as my aunt, my mother’s only sister, analyzed my handwriting as well as written samples from my family members, friends, and teachers.

My penchant for fiction grew out of Nancy Drew speed reading competitions with my best friend and blossomed into the memorization of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and my love for Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone With the Wind. I savored the beauty of classical Latin and Greek in college and later became known as the resident “Grammar Lady” in my office. At one time or another, I devoured the content of sundry magazines and newspapers, blogs, and nonfiction books.

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My love of books eventually moved me from a self-proclaimed loather of libraries to one of their biggest fans. (To be fair, the gloomy, musty local library and a snippy librarian had more to do with my enmity than books themselves.)

I kept a daily journal from the age of thirteen clear through to twenty-five, recording mundane details, events, and feelings (a lot about boys who didn’t like me back). I poured out boredom, heartbreak, confusion and joy in slanted cursive created with blue ink.

I continued to write as part of my work in public relations and communications. There were news releases, summaries, newsletters, columns, and position papers. I dabbled in short fiction with a community college course in short stories and a library class on children’s writing.

I was still a newlywed on the beach in St. Martin when I started scribbling notes and dialogue in the back of a journal, trying to capture all the details of a story that started as a dream and evolved into a drama.

It wasn’t until National Novel Writing Month in 2010, while my husband travelled for work and my children slept, that I dove headlong into the craft of novel writing. Without a clue as to what I was doing, I set my sights on writing 55,000 words in thirty days, an unprecedented feat for me.

I began with a printout of a newspaper story that intrigued me and the vague idea my protagonist would be a teenage girl. There was treasure, intrigue, and a light, innocent romance. Then day after day I stared at the large, white expanse of a new Microsoft Word document and proceeded to make stuff up, following every tangent as if it were the lifeline that would save me from leaving my muddled morass incomplete.

I emerged from that experience with a horrible first draft but a concrete means of transferring the stories that flickered like movies in my mind into coherent, concrete products.

Until that point, I hadn't realized that the cinematic scenes that played out in my imagination while I cleaned, drove, or showered, could be translated into a coherent mass of words with arcs, themes, tension, and plot. -- Carolyn Astfalk

Until that point, I hadn’t realized that the cinematic scenes that played out in my imagination while I cleaned, drove, or showered, could be translated into a coherent mass of words with arcs, themes, tension, and plot.

The more I indulged the words and scenes in my head, the more they flowed, often unbidden and intrusive.

I scrambled for pens and scraps of paper, afraid of losing any nugget of potential literary gold. The words and the ideas multiplied faster than rabbits in spring. That was when I conceded that I had to write, if not for my love of words then for my love of sanity.

There are other, lesser reasons I continue to write.

Yes, I feel “called” in a sense to write, to share particular stories, experiences, and themes that I hope will edify, entertain, and glorify. I’m certain I’m neither the most talented nor most skilled writer (not even close), but perhaps there is some small way in which my work has purpose beyond the sphere of my small and short life.

How else could I explain the time, energy, and bits of my soul I’ve poured into writing, reading, and attempting to improve my skills? For nearly five years, this fiction-writing gig has amounted to a part-time job, one for which I’ve not yet earned a penny.


 

Carolyn AstfalkCarolyn’s debut novel, Stay With Me, will be released on October 1, 2015. At that time, she hopes to earn a few pennies to contribute to her family’s wealth and offset the time and financial drain of her word habit. Until then, you can find me playing with letters and words at My Scribbler’s Heart Blog. Carolyn resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

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