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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