Why I Do What I Do

~ And maybe why you should care…

Ran across a blog post today by Kimberly Grabas on Your Writer Platform. The article is about marketing your book and building your writer platform.


I read it through, and was all set to comment when I tripped over my own response from back in 2013! <blush> Didn’t recognize the article, didn’t remember it at all ’til I saw my own icon…

I was just as impressed on this read-through as I had been on the last, but this time I went farther than before. This time, I had the time to form some answers to the questions Kimberly had posed.

Her questions were based on Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why – specifically, his concept of the Golden Circle. Here are her questions and notes:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. ~Simon Sinek, Start With Why
For the average writer, this is their Golden Circle:
What you do: write fiction, non-fiction, novellas, articles, poetry, web copy and so on.
How you do it: your difference from your competitors; in marketing speak, it’s your unique selling proposition, or what makes your work distinct from other writers in your field.
Why you do it:
o A purpose or belief. It’s why you get up at 5am to squeeze in your daily word count; why you write around your day job, family and other obligations; why you write, despite the pitying looks from new acquaintances when you reveal “I am a writer”.
o It is the meaning and message behind your work.
o The piece to the puzzle that you need to solve, that, once determined, eliminates the need to continually try to differentiate yourself.
Will your ‘why’ resonate with all possible audiences?
No. But those it does meld with will be your rabid fans, your community, your tribe.
Without clearly expressing why you are doing what you do, you are left with trying to prove your advantage or significance based on marketing tactics alone.

I thought about this for a while, as well as reviewing the comment I’d originally responded to, and came up with this:

What I do: I write stories involving people facing seemingly impossible odds.
How I do it: I do it by writing stories of people who find within themselves the strength to persevere, even if they see no hope of winning.
Why I do it: I do this because my stories show that G. K. Chesterton is right – that monsters exist, but also that monsters can be killed. That if one person can make it through, then someone else can make it through. My message is that of empowerment.

My best stories have started from dreams I’ve had. Dreams from which I’ve woken with a feeling that did not let me go – not that day, nor for days afterward. Dreams that gave me a character and a situation, but no other information other than the knowledge that I wouldn’t be able to leave it alone until I started writing and found out the rest of the story.

I guess I might call them “stress dreams,” because they seem to come in my life when I am under a great deal of stress. Perhaps it is the Universe – or my Muse – telling me “It’s going to be alright. Just hang in there and keep on the way you’re going, you’ll make it through.” And usually I do. Maybe because I stop obsessing about my stressful situation and start focusing on the story I’m discovering? Who can say?

But the point remains ~ my characters are battered and brutalized by the villain and by the life around them. They face horrible situations and impossible odds. They often cannot see their way through – but they absolutely refuse to stop, because they know that if they do, worse will happen. They know, deep in their bones, in the core of their soul, the truth of the quote attributed to Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” And so they stand up, one more time, bloody but unbowed, and they stand between. They stand between evil and the innocent, because they cannot do anything else. They stand between, knowing that it may be “over my dead body” – but promising that they will by God take an honor guard.

And because they do, others come to join them. To help them. To empower them – and thus, to empower themselves as well. Because that kind of courage sets an example, and draws others to their cause. And soon, my characters find that they’re no longer alone, that they’re not Sisyphus, pushing a boulder up hill. Soon, there are others adding their strength to theirs. And that is how they win.

I write, because as Stephen King says, I can’t not write. But what I write, and why I write – that comes from a quote by Kim McManus.

Tell Your Story

If this resonates with you, I hope you will check out what I’ve written on this blog under the header “my words.” And I hope you’ll let me know what you think.

‘Cause okay, yes – I admit I could use the encouragement…  😉


What Do You See, What Do You Know?

They say that writers see things differently than other people. I don’t know that that’s true.

I don’t think that we see things differently. I think that we SEE. That maybe we pay more attention to what we see, that we pick up what we see, and handle it, and look at it from different angles. We don’t see differently, we see more. We look deeper than the surface. And then we apply our own observations, our own interpretations, our own emotions, as touchstones and litmus tests and whatever other tests to see if they look real, to see if they feel true. If they feel TRUE.

I haven’t ever had a “love of my life.” But I’ve loved. I’ve loved my parents, and I’ve loved my friends, and I’ve loved my cats. And yes, a special someone or two. I’ve read hundreds, maybe thousands, of books where people love and are loved. I’ve watched TV shows and movies and plays. And I’ve seen my friends go through the motions and the emotions. The highs and the lows and the devastating pain of losing a loved one. And so I know I can write about love. Because even though I have never felt that particular love in my own self, my heart knows how that feels because through my watching and my testing and my simply living—I encompass all these things.

They say “write what you know.” But oh, we know so many things that we have never experienced in our own selves. We are rich in experiences that have happened to others. From books, from TV, from movies, from plays. And in those things and the things we have experienced are the seeds to write what we have not.

I have never gone skydiving, but I have leaned against the wind in a storm and felt it hold my body up when I should have fallen. Felt it take my breath away even as it fills my lungs with elation. I have felt my hair whip across my face driving in the car with the top down. So when I see someone leap out of an airplane and spread his arms like wings I know what he is feeling. And if I know it, I can show it.

Write what you know. But remember that you know more than you think.