Why Write this Story?
The first fundamental question that we wanna ask is why even write this story? Now this is a super simple question on the surface, and oftentimes you can answer it really easily on a surface-level way. Why this story? Why write this story? And people usually launch into something about there's a spark that has happened in their head, right? Something happened and this story stuck in their mind. Of all the other stories in the world, this one has capture their attention and captured their heart and is stuck there, and what we wanna do is really get at that why, and get at that why for you and as deep as we can go. So this touches on the great idea by Simon Sinek who wrote the book Start with Why. So Start with Why for writers is just as important as it is for companies. His book is a book for businesses that the argument is you gotta know what you're doing before you can go and sell it. You have to know really what you're doing, and really what matters to you, and it's the same for writ...
ers. "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it, "and what you do simply proves what you believe." So asking yourself why this story is really asking what do I believe? What do I want to say? What is my point? What do I wanna get people to think about human nature? A book is really an argument for something. It's an argument for some sort of belief that you have. And people, when I say this, often think, well wait a second, I'm writing a middle-grade story about fairies in a magical kingdom. I don't have to have a deep-level why. I don't have to have a point. It's just there's cool fairies and there's this cool queen and there's this magic and then they launch into the plot. And I wanna yank you back and make you answer this deep-level why, and I wanna urge you to think about why is this story connected to you? What about it has captured your attention? Why does it mean something to you? Because if you know what it means to you, that's the thing that's gonna save you when you get mired in doubt. And I promise you, you're gonna get mired in doubt. There is no writer that writes a book and doesn't go through some valley of despair, usually many valleys of despair. It's a hard thing to do and I think there's two things that can save you when you're feeling doubt. One is you're understanding of why you're doing this, of what it means to you, of why it matters. The second is paying attention to other books that have been impactful in your own life. Understanding that other people have done this thing that has been meaningful to you, placing yourself in that context of meaning, and what your deep-level why is. So in the workbook, just take 20 minutes and really write just a manifesto, if you will, why this story, what does it mean to you, why now? What is your deep-level why about this story, and after you've done that, you wanna step back and look at what you've written, because many times the key to your whole story is in these words. In the workbook, I ask you to write about a page. Many times people write more than one page. It often goes back to something in their childhood, or something related to someone that they love, or some really important moment in their life, or something that's just really captured their heart and it's very personal, it's very intimate, and usually in those pages, contained in those words, is the key to your whole story. And I often say when later in some of the exercises, if you get stuck or you feel like you're not sure, you're making a decision, come back to these pages and look at them because the key is often here. So once we do that work, we wanna step back and look at it and think well, what can we learn from what I wrote down on these pages? So I wanna just take a minute to share one of the whys that one of the students here in the studio wrote because I think it is a beautiful example of what I'm talking about, and my favorite thing to read are these whys. I love reading them. They usually just are so moving and beautiful and raw and authentic and actually, that's exactly what we want your writing to be, so why not start with something that allows you to do that. So the why that I have here is from Katie, and I'm gonna read this 'cause I just love it, and Katie, if you're here, can you raise your hand? There you are! I wanna just ask you about this after I read it. So Katie says, "I'm a big geek. "I probably have played every type of game there is. "My personal favorite games are pen and paper, "role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. "It's the one time that I join a group "of like-minded peers "as we journey together through fantastical stories "with characters that we've created, "and are often nothing like the people we are currently. "The choices I make affect the world and the story, "and that's the addicted nature of the game." So just at the start here, can you see what she's done? She's talking about the power of getting out of your own head. She's talking about the power of having agency over your own life, which you often don't feel like in real life. This is pretty profound stuff, and she goes on to say, "As we all grow older with our jobs, "and in some cases families, "I find myself playing less and less of these games." I feel like you guys should saw aww. (all laughing) I mean that's so sad, right? That's so profoundly sad in many ways. "It's not by choice, but that's just how life is. "It's left me with a deep need to continue to tell stories. "It wasn't until recently that I've had the epiphany "of creating stories myself. "It would be like playing a single-player "campaign story in a video game. "I can create stories without depending on anyone else. "That was a highly empowering thought, "and from then on I decided "to research how I could possibly do this. "I have no writing experience, "but I do have a decade "and a half experience of telling stories, "so that's gotta mean something. "If I can somehow write stories "and have them published, that would be amazing." I just think that is so beautiful and profound. Here's a person who is not a writer, who's not ever thought this was a thing she was gonna do, who's called to do this for this very personal and important and meaningful reason, and so she's gonna commit herself to learning how to do it well, and do you see how in that she knows why she's doing it? Her deep-level why is in there, so when she gets stuck on what kind of story to tell, or what kind of character to develop, she can come back to that and say oh yeah, I wanted a story like I enjoyed, to immerse myself in, to escape into, to have the character have agency. These are what I'm talking about. The keys to everything are in those few paragraphs that she wrote about why she even cares. So I would just love to just take a second to say when you wrote that did you feel that sense of depth, or did you feel like oh, I'm just sort of answering the question?
No, no, I definitely feel that depth. When I wrote that, I was already researching on how to do this on my own, so when I answered that question, I already had a set answer for that.
Yeah, well so that's great. And doesn't knowing that give you some comfort that you know why you're doing it, and if you know why, you can figure out the how, right?
Oh yeah, I'm pretty fearless. Like I said, I did a lot of pen and paper RPGs. It's all about thinking stories on the spot, so I'm pretty confident I could tell a story, I just have to tell it cohesively with words now. (laughs)
Well, I love it. That's perfect and that encapsulates the whole thing we're gonna do today, so we're gonna figure out how to do it, and I agree, the how is really the easy part. The knowing your why is sometimes the hard part, and being confident is the hard part. So you've got that. I think it's great. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. I love that. I could read writers' whys all day long. They're so great.