This morning’s commute-to-school conversation with Dear Daughter? Drinking. Which led to smoking. Which led to addiction. Which led to teen addiction versus adult use. Which got my writing wheels turning.
Close your eyes and go back in time to highschool. Remember how visceral the need to fit in was? How our hearts raced when certain kids smiled at us? How they dropped to the floor when those same kids spat hate words at us? How our identities were firmly attached to the things we did (or didn’t) do?
Band geeks, jocks, cheerleaders, dopers, losers, goody-goodies.
The titles may have changed, but the concept is the same. How we feel about ourselves is directly impacted by the way others see us. Some of us carefully cultivated our reputations, while others let the chips fall where they may. Still more seemed to be victims of circumstance. Regardless of how we got them or what they were, our reputations defined us.
Guess what? They still do. I read in a magazine a few years back that roughly 83% of adults polled said they wanted to write a novel. That number is duplicated by teen drinkers. According to an article in USA Today, 81% of teens have consumed alcohol.
My question is why? Why do so many adults feel compelled to write? Why do so many of our nation’s youth feel compelled to drink?
My belief is that for many teen drinkers and many adult writers, we have a strong need to fit in. We want others to recognize us, not look past us. We want to be heard, respected and accepted. Because of that, we romanticize the activities we partake in and use them to identify ourselves with the masses.
Let’s face it, nearly everyone can write on some level, and many of us feel less than satisfied with aspects of our real life journeys. Not everyone aspires to (insert dead-end job here). We see successful authors and say, “Hey, I can do that. I want to do that. I want everyone in highschool to recognize me as the cool kid–the one with a nationally known name and a bank account to rival Suzanne Collins’, not the one who had used toilet paper stuck to the bottom of her shoe in the eighth grade.”
In a similar manner, this is what kids go through each and every day. They yearn for a strong identity and, by default, are more apt to engage in socially acceptable behavior they can do. Playing a mean clarinet solo doesn’t garner as many cool points as slamming a beer in 2.3 seconds.
Taking this comparison one step further, most teens who crack a beer for the first time have no real idea about the life-long affects teen drinking can have. Likewise, I’ve been around long enough to know that most adult writers possess a similar lack of understanding about what writing a novel is really like. Rather, a fair number of both groups may simply be looking for a way to cement their identities within their communities.
Starting any habit based on the need to fit in can be devastating to our sense of self-worth. In the coming week, I will address the issue of (un)healthy writing and how to find a balance that works for you.
So, dear writers, who are you and why do you write? What compels you to pen words on napkin scraps, forego sleep and throw yourself out there for rejection time and again? Is it a byline? A bigger bank account? A message? A deep and unexplained passion? Therapy? A need to prove a point? The desire to escape?
Don’t worry, there are no right or wrong answers. Nobody is here to judge, just to understand the drive behind the words.
PS. Neither I nor Suzanne Collins had used toilet paper stuck to our shoes in the eighth grade–at least not that I’m aware of!
PPS. If you don’t know who Suzanne Collins is, please check her out online. Then check out her amazing books (THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy). Then check out a seat in the movie theater as her epic book hits the big screen in less than 20 days.
PPPS. In case you don’t know, Miss Collins wrote an amazing series for middle grade readers, as well as a picture book. It’s never too youg to fall in love with a great author.