Thursday, March 15, 2012

Join the COOL WRITER's Club....(or not)

Guest post by Melissa Tagg, 2010 Frasier Winner
(and my personal hero, because everything she
does is awesome. ;-)

But why?

I’m about to say something many writers probably consider blasphemy.

In fact, I may get kicked out of the cool writer’s club (assuming such a club exists and that writers can, in fact, be cool). But in the name of honesty, I’ll go ahead and say it:

I’m not one of those writers who “writes because she can’t not write.”

You’ve heard people say that’s why they write…right? They can’t imagine not putting pen to paper…or fingers to keyboard, as it were.

I’m truly not that kind of writer. I can totally not write.  I love reading. Watching old movies. Taking walks. Hanging out with the people I love. Sleeping. Bubble baths. And, yes, playing Fruit Ninja on my iPhone.

See, I’m actually quite skilled at not writing.

So why do I get up at 5 a.m. to fit in a couple hours of writing before my day job? Why do I spend a good chunk of my not-so-Trump-like income on writing conferences, resources and courses? Why do I battle maverick characters and potholey plots?

Well, I’m a huge My Book Therapy junkie, and one of the things award-winning authors and book therapists Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck always teach the importance of asking our characters Why?

Why do they act the way they do?
Why do they make the decisions they make?
Why do they believe what they believe?

Susie and Rachel have taught me to dig deeper than the surface answers to these questions. It’s not enough to settle for the easy why. As I keep asking my characters “Why?” I discover their core motivations, values, the beliefs that guide their actions.

Asking why is a great exercise for character building, but I’m realizing it’s a game-changer in my own life as well. When I take the time to ask myself “Why?” I discover not only the motivation behind my writing dream, but the energy and excitement to keep plugging away at something that, frankly, sometimes feels just plain too big for me.

What are the whys behind my writing?

The surface ones are easy. I love a good story. I want to make people laugh and swoon at the same time. I want to entertain, amuse and inspire. And I’m not going to lie: I pretty much love the idea of seeing my name on a book cover.

But there’s a deeper why:

I write because stories change lives. They breathe truth and hope into hurting hearts. When well-crafted and Holy Spirit-inspired, they’re not only poignant…but powerful.

I believe this is why Jesus so often taught through stories.

It’s that why that gets me out of bed at 5 a.m…helps me keep going when I hit the messy middle of my story…pushes me to work…hard. Inspires me to face the risks and vulnerability of pursuing publication.

I don’t write because I can’t not write. I write because I can. Because it’s an amazing opportunity to use the creativity given me by the greatest Storyteller of all.

How about you? Why do you write? How does knowing why you write help you move forward? Have you taken the time to ask your characters the big Why?

Melissa Tagg is a former reporter turned fiction writer who believes faith, laughter and love are the perfect mix for a fabulous book. She serves on the development team for a Christ-centered homeless ministry and as the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy. She is the 2010 winner of the MBT Frasier Award and an ACFW Genesis finalist. Connect with Melissa at, and on Facebook and Twitter.


Jennifer Fromke said...

Love what you said. I also write because I CAN. Thanks for saying it out loud. :-)

Heather Hart said...

Okay, since you asked. I'm one of those writers that can't imagine not writing. It's just what I do. I have to fight the urge to write when I'm not suppose to. It's not that I don't like bubble baths... I just like to take a notebook and pen with me. I enjoy other things to, but if I'm not writing physically, I'm usually writing in my mind. Re-scripting the movie that I'm watching, or planning out a blog post or devotion for later. It's just the way I am. Before I started pursuing writing, I still wrote, I just didn't do anything with it. I would write tons of notes, or re-write a book that I had just finished reading because I didn't like the way the author did something - obviously I would never do anything with those re-written novels, but I just had to fix the plot errors! I dunno, I can't imagine life any other way.

Jessica R. Patch said...

So glad to see one of my very favorite peeps today! I love this. I love the why behind your story. I write for those reasons. To bring hope. Bottom line.

Also, my SON plays fruit ninja on my phone and his hands are always clammy, thus he leaves 7 year old boy slime on my phone when he's done.

You don't do that do you?

Jeanne T said...

Melissa! So good to see you here! :) Loved your thoughts today. I confess, I've always wanted to write, but I'm able to "not write". However, now that stories are in my head, I want to write them. I believe God gave them to me to write to encourage others, and maybe even help them draw closer to Him.

I have asked my characters "the big Why" and I've learned so much about them.

Can't wait to read some of your stories of hope, while laughing and swooning. :)

Elizabeth Byler Younts said...

GREAT POST!!!! I think you put words in my mouth that I didn't know I really needed to say to myself. Thanks!!!!

Unknown said...

Yay, so fun to hear (see?) I'm not the only one who just can't truthfully say "I write because I can't not write." :)

@Jennifer, you're welcome. :) You have a book coming out soon, yes?

@Heather, you must have writer genes I don't. :) But seriously, I think it's awesome that you can't not write...AND that you take a pen and paper to bubble baths. Hehe!!

@Jess, nope, I just leave 30-year-old slime. LOL! You know, your blog constantly brings me hope...and laughter too. If your books are anything like your blog, us readers are in for a huge treat!

@Jeanne, I sooo missed seeing you at DT this year. Still mourning that! I'm glad you're pursuing writing and I can't wait til the day I get to read your stuff!

@Elizabeth, yay for common mindsets among writers. :) It was actually a pretty freeing thing for me to admit the reason I write isn't because of I *have* to, but because I *want* to.

Unknown said...

p.s. Thank you so much for having me, Alley Cats. I feel honored. And Casey, I think everything *you* do is awesome. :)

Susie May said...

what a fabulous post, Melissa! i think we need to ask why behind everything we do. But I love your answers. Me too! XO! SMW

Keli Gwyn said...

Wow! How cool to see Melissa at the Alley. Love the post. "Why?" is a great question, one I ask myself and my characters often. The answers can be quite surprising in both cases and can lead to some great scenes in my stories.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Nice to meet you, Melissa! Amazing how every writer is a little different.

The why for me is simple: Because it fills me with joy!


Joanne Sher said...

Oh, Melissa - I feel SOOO much better now! I was afraid I was the only one.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Melissa, I love this post! It's taken me until just...this year, I think to really see that I can NOT write. I love my family, my friends, my other hobbies. I could fill my life with church and cooking and cleaning and all sorts of other activities that keep me plenty busy and satisfied. But I'd miss entertaining. I'd miss the idea of someone reading my words and hanging out with my characters and taking something away from it. I think your outlook on this is awesome and it's really going to give me more to think about. Thanks!

Patricia Bradley said...

I just can't imagine not writing. When life happens and I'm thrown off-kilter and can't write, I get grumpy and antsy and all I think about is writing. *sigh* Even when I'm being creative, like with making jewelry and playing in the mud. So, I guess I write because I can't not write, but also because I CAN! And I agree, stories change lives.

Lacie Nezbeth said...

Hi Melissa! I think this might be my favorite post of all time!! I so love that you admitted that your writing is not a "have to" but a "want to". I'm in the same boat and always feel guilty somehow when I hear other writers say they just can't not write. There are so many other wonderful activities and experiences in this world...writing is just the cherry on top along the way! For me anyway. :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Wow, Melissa, I think you struck a chord with alot of people. I know it did for me. I've always felt guilty for not have that feeling of "write or die". I could leave it, I think, except for the fact that I want to write good, uplifting, fun, inspiring stories. I WANT to.

Cheers on an AWESOME post!

Lindsay Harrel said...

Yet another reason that we are so alike, Mel! I stopped writing creatively for years while pursuing journalism and then went for editing instead. It wasn't until I sat down and really thought about what career I wanted forever that I felt the nudge to dive into fiction writing. I write because I want a career with purpose, that will affect others and bring them closer to God. In essence, I want a career that doesn't feel like a career, just an extension of my heart. It is still hard work, but I want to do something that means more than a paycheck to me...and God gave me a love and gift for writing. Maybe it isn't the kosher answer but it's mine.

Unknown said...

Fun, I love that so many of us have this in common. :)

@Susie - Thanks bunches for stopping by. You're the one who got me asking why in the first place. :) You've blessed my life in a gazillion ways!

@Keli, I love it when the answer to "Why?" is surprising. I had that happen just recently in my WIP. One character actually asked my heroine why she was lying to, well, basically the whole country. (She's a TV homebuilding star.) And before I realized what I was typing, I wrote, "Because I want to, okay!" And it suddenly hit me, this character isn't just lying to save her career...but because she actually wants to believe her lie is true. She wishes she was the person she claims to be. Such an eye-opening thing for me!

Unknown said...

@Susan, nice to meet you too! And yes, writing brings so much joy!

@Joanne, I'm having that same, "Wow, I'm so not alone" feeling. I had a niggle of worry that I'd write this post and come off sounding like I'm not a "real writer." It's refreshing to hear other writers say the same thing.

@Cindy, I hear ya. There's something so affirming about writing something and knowing someone else is reading it.

@Pat, I like that it works both ways for you. :) You are an awesome writer and I can't wait to read your book someday!

Unknown said...

@Lacie, thank you for liking this post! I mentioned above that I had a niggle of worry about how it'd sound...I'm glad I'm not alone. I agree with you - there's so much in the world to experience. I don't think I'll ever be the proverbial hermit writer...

@Sherrinda, I've actually wondered before, could I give up this whole writing dream? Could I be happy never writing another story? Thankfully, I haven't had to actually answer it. :) Like you, I think I could - I wouldn't miss my angst and moodiness when I know a story isn't right. But oh how I'd miss bringing characters to life!

@Lindsay, I'm so with you! I want a career that doesn't feel like a that brings both me and others joy...and most of all, honors God.

Beth K. Vogt said...

Melissa is rocking the Alley today -- how cool is that! One of my favorite people + one of my favorite blogs = good reading.
Why do I write?
I truly believe deep in my being that this is who God made me to be. Stamped somewhere on my DNA (both genetic and spiritual)in large block letters is the word "WRITER."
(And those who know me as The Evil Editor, or TEE, know I rarely use large block letters.)
And I agree with you, Melissa. I think story is powerful -- and that everyone -- everyone -- loves story.

Unknown said...

You are sweet, TEE. :) I believe you - that writer is stamped somewhere in your DNA. You're an incredible writer and I can't wait to get to hold your book in my soon!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Hey Melissa! So good to see you here!

And I love what you shared today. Oh man, the things I could do if I didn't with my kids more, clean the house more, shower more... (totally kidding on that last one) :)

But then what would I miss if I didn't write? So much I can't quantify it in a blog comment. Thanks for spinning the perspective...I love it! :)

Atie said...

Thank you so much for this.

I think I write because I have a lot of imagination. Writing limits my inexhaustible imagination in a very special way, so I do not always live in a dream world. My daydreams are limited now to what I write. Eh ... would that work? No. I am a dreamer. I am a writer. And I love it. It is a challenge, both a temptation. Because I want a good mom :-)

I love your post!

Paula Boire writing as Sara Jameson said...

Great post, Melissa. Very, very thought provoking. I write because I feel called to write and it has begun to consume me the same way any thing else I love to do does. Some days it's a discipline. Others a joy. But like so many others, it consumes a portion of my thoughts, whether on the front burner or the back burner of my mind. It's hard for me to turn off those mental burners--even in a bubble bath. Or driving, or eating, or hiking, etc.

Ruth Douthitt said...

I write for the same reason that I lose weight. Just kidding!

I write because I have stories to tell and I feel the Lord has me on this path to encourage young people to follow Him.

And I do notice that I lose weight when I write because I don't snack as much. ha ha!



Heidi Larson Geis said...

Melissa, I SO appreciate your honesty! Like you, I can totally not write. I can find a million things to do before I will finally sit down and face my computer. I WANT to write, but too often I find myself doing anything BUT writing. I've never even thought about asking MYSELF those questions! So thank you, for giving me a way to remind myself why I want to write.

I, too, love the idea of seeing your name on the cover of a book!

Unknown said...

@Sarah, I agree. There'd be so much to miss about not writing...probably the hugest of which, to me, is the amazing fellowship with other writers. The first MBT retreat I attended opened up this whole new world of beautiful people to me. :)

@Aritha, oh how I hear you. It's sad to think what could happen to our imaginations if we didn't give them an outlet.

@Paula, I love the idea of your writing side staying on even when it's on the back burner. While I can so easily *not* write, I'm not sure I can turn off the storytelling/imaginative side of me. Perhaps that's what some people really mean when they say they can't not write...

Unknown said...

@Ruth, oh my goodness, I'm trying so hard not to be envious at the moment. You lose weight when you write? I'm pretty sure I'm the opposite...because I do lots of mindless snacking when I'm deep in the story throes. :)

@Heidi! Hey friend!! Any chance I'll get to see you at all this year...ACFW?? :)

Casey said...

I have been a terrible hostess today, but what a fabulous guest to have on the Alley today!

Melissa, I was sooo excited when I read this post because it so struck a cord with me and I can see the same thing can be said of a lot of readers today!

Thank you so much for being a guest and sharing a fabulous post!

Casey said...

ELIZABETH, when I read this post I thought the exact same thing! And I realized I can actually say I DON'T want to write. But I CHOOSE to write.

SUSIE, thank so much for stopping by today!

JOANNE, trust me...there are ANY of us!

BETH, it's ingrained in you...its who you are and you completely rock it. I'm super excited for that May date. :D

Alena T. said...

Thanks for another awesome post. Learning the "why" of why I write has been life-changing for me. It does give me the motiviation to make the time and to stick with it.

Blessings My Friend!
Alena T.

Angie Dicken said...

What a wonderful and inspiring post! It's so true. I am great at finding ways to not write. Why do I write? It's because I love to create, to mold characters, to find powerful ways to craft stories that glorify God. It is very exciting!
Glad to see you here! Maybe one day I will finally be able to join your writing group (not the cool club, already joined up! ;) )

Unknown said...

@Casey, thanks so much for having me! I'm so glad the post turned out to be relevant. :)

@Alena, OHHH, I miss you!! Can't wait to see you in a month or so!!

@Angie, yes, I hope you get to join us one of these months. Sadly, I ended up missing writing group this week too as I had to work late Tuesday night. Maybe next month!!

dtopliff said...

Melissa, I was college-prepping yesterday so couldn't stop in, but so glad I did today. I love this. Yes, for me writing is (mostly) intentional and I'm perfectionistic enough to usually spend too much time polishing versus forward motion. But am learning and love your comments here.

Tiffany Stuart said...


Thank you.

I needed your words.



Unknown said...

@Dee, thanks for stopping by! I think I might have a bit of a perfectionist streak too. :)

@Tiffany, I'm so glad the post struck a chord with you. Hugs to you, too!