Why Do I Write? Thoughts by Mike Senczyszak

I first encoun­tered Mike Senczyszak at the begin­ning of 2016 and since then I have been a fre­quent vis­i­tor to his Sols­bury Hill blog, full of “eccen­tric mus­ings and obser­va­tions”, in par­tic­u­lar ask­ing “Giv­en Up On Your Blog Yet?“and explor­ing “Pandora’s Box – A Writer’s Kryp­tonite”. Ask­ing Mike to con­tribute to my series  about the chal­lenges writ­ers face seemed a log­i­cal step to take as I do enjoy read­ing his work.

June 1st 2016

Why Do I Write?

I ask myself this ques­tion, often dur­ing peri­ods of stag­nant pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, when my imag­i­na­tion van­ish­es into that cre­ative void.  Writ­ing is my out­let, a form of per­son­al ther­a­py, a con­duit to under­stand­ing life. From my ear­li­est days, I gar­nered inspi­ra­tion from books and films – the horror/paranormal genre pre­dom­i­nant­ly, spurring my imag­i­na­tion and com­pelling me to write.  Ripe with unique ideas, obscure con­cepts, and non-tra­di­tion­al approach­es to tra­di­tion­al sto­ry­telling, the right side of my brain flour­ished.  The chal­lenge was get­ting my ideas down in a coher­ent, log­i­cal and time­ly man­ner – left sided brain stuff.

Disciplinary Hearing by Artsy Bee CC0 Public Domain from PixabaySuc­cess­ful authors exude dis­ci­pline, com­mit­ment and deter­mi­na­tion. They thrive on it.  Some­thing I lack. While I’ll argue the mas­ters are born with genius embed­ded in their DNA, those with­out cre­ative genet­ic cod­ing can achieve great­ness, through pas­sion and hard work, name­ly a ‘seat of the pants to the seat of the chair’ work ethic.

My strug­gle as a writer has been twofold – a dash of self-crit­i­cism and a dol­lop of pro­cras­ti­na­tion.  I’ve nev­er con­sid­ered myself a par­tic­u­lar­ly good writer.  Despite hav­ing writ­ten across sev­er­al gen­res over many years — hun­dreds of thou­sands of words lat­er, I still strug­gle with self-doubt.  Most writ­ers do.  The sud­den, often ran­dom onset of a self-crit­i­cal episode is pre­dictable to a degree, and while I’m not able to sus­pend the cycle, I’ve learned to mit­i­gate my cre­ative loss­es.  We all pos­sess an inter­nal edi­tor, that voice that ques­tions each word we write, com­pares our trite to the likes of Tolkien, Hem­ing­way or Rowl­ing, and reminds us that we’re real­ly just kid­ding ourselves.

How does one overcome self-induced adversity?

Adversity by skeeze CC0 Public Domain from Pixabay

By writ­ing. Sounds sim­ple, but it isn’t.  Forc­ing your­self to write while tread­ing water in a cesspool of self-crit­i­cism and per­sis­tent doubt, is chal­leng­ing.  But com­mit­ment, desire, and the abil­i­ty to forge ahead despite all else, often results in a sur­pris­ing revival of cre­ative flow.  Some of my most unique work, con­cepts I’ve nev­er con­tem­plat­ed before, emerged dur­ing the throes of forced writ­ing.  Com­pa­ra­ble to hit­ting the runner’s wall, once you make it through the ini­tial peri­od of intense pain, the inno­v­a­tive spir­it breaks free and soars.  The tac­tic, when suc­cess­ful, reignites lost pas­sion, inspires, and more impor­tant­ly jump starts the pos­i­tive writ­ing cycle.

Over the years, pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive cre­ative cycles came and went. Dab­bling in dif­fer­ent gen­res, I switched gears back and forth, often on a whim, or based on a sin­gle sto­ry idea. For a time I was con­sumed with screen­writ­ing. As a lover of film (who isn’t) the idea of cre­at­ing a script, a medi­um where I con­trolled not just the sto­ry, but the direc­tion, cam­era angles, even the sound­track — was exhil­a­rat­ing. For visu­al thinkers, like myself, screen­writ­ing opened up a mar­velous forum for cre­ation, allow­ing me to con­cep­tu­al­ize every facet of my sto­ry. Not that screen­writ­ers wield this type of pow­er in Hol­ly­wood, far from it, but writ­ing a first draft in this man­ner, with­out con­straint, opens up worlds of inno­v­a­tive potential.

I com­plet­ed four scripts dur­ing my screen­writ­ing tenure, three hor­ror, one action, and while I nev­er active­ly mar­ket­ed my work, I learned a great deal about the craft, and more impor­tant­ly, my writ­ing improved. Quan­ti­ty has a way of doing that.

Years lat­er, after the birth of our daugh­ter, I switched gears again, this time, focus­ing on children’s sto­ries.  Plung­ing myself into the world of Dahl, Seuss and Mun­sch, I learned quick­ly that the genre, like most, was high­ly com­pet­i­tive, and the mar­ket over-sat­u­rat­ed.  I nev­er­the­less remained focused and stayed the course for two years.  To my ben­e­fit, I was less crit­i­cal of my work dur­ing this phase, enjoyed some suc­cess along the way, and wrote a great deal.  How­ev­er, part of me craved tra­di­tion­al sto­ry­telling — hor­ror sto­ry­telling in particular.

The switch back to screen­writ­ing and short fic­tion was inevitable.  While I kept myself active for a peri­od, regres­sion soon set in.  Shuf­fling from piece to piece, I evolved into a writ­ing ‘dab­bler’, non-com­mit­tal to any one project.  Frus­tra­tion, pro­cras­ti­na­tion and self-doubt returned.  The neg­a­tive cycle was back.

Solsbury 2I avoid­ed writ­ing, house­hold chores were top pri­or­i­ty, the lawn immac­u­late, Net­flix binge-watch­ing in high gear.  Weeks turned into months.

Until the ulti­ma­tum.  I forced myself to write.

I began my Blog.

My com­mit­ment to blog­ging forced me into a writ­ing reg­i­ment.  While my sched­ule is not aggres­sive, I post week­ly, the process assured I was writ­ing, revis­ing and pub­lish­ing, on a reg­u­lar basis.  After the ini­tial few months I found site stats and ana­lyt­ics were neg­a­tive­ly affect­ing my moti­va­tion, but I kept at it, remind­ing myself it was the jour­ney, not the des­ti­na­tion I was after.  I regrouped, main­tained focus, and con­tin­ued to pro­duce.  Sev­en months in, as I con­tin­ue to work towards defin­ing long-term goals, blog­ging remains an excep­tion­al tool, a fresh cre­ative out­let, and a cop­ing mech­a­nism against self-dep­re­ca­tion and procrastination.

I’ve grown accus­tomed to my tur­bu­lent rela­tion­ship with writ­ing.  I’ve come to expect the peaks and val­leys, the con­quests and fail­ures, and the over­all cycle of (a writer’s) life.

If it’s not a chal­lenge, it’s not worth pursuing.

 

Mike Senczyszak

Check out his web­site: www​.senczyszak​.com

Con­nect on Twit­ter: @solsburyhil

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