In the meantime, I was still writing. I wrote essays, I worked as a stringer for a newspaper in Istanbul, and I got a Masters degree in journalism. Bless all you good journalists out there, but once I got my degree, I realized that I could never, ever, ever be a journalist. I didn't have the necessary passion for it, and I even hated it a little bit (okay, a lot). Wish I would have realized that earlier!
After grad school, I resumed my creative writing, but still I felt like I had nothing meaningful to say. After struggling with this for a while, one day I realized that if I was going to write anything at all, it had to be fun, or I'd never finish it. I thought of those stories I'd enjoyed writing so much when I was younger, and I turned my efforts back to children's fiction. For years I worked on this in fits and starts.
It always seemed to me that the many successful writers got their starts in desperate situations--an unhappy childhood, meandering young adulthood, stark poverty. Think pre-coke addiction Stephen King balancing his typewriter on his knees in the laundry room at midnight, J.K. Rowling as a depressed single mother who'd recently escaped an abusive relationship, or look at Charles Dickens's miserable childhood, Ernest Hemingway's experiences with suicide and war.
I had none of that. My childhood was happy, and I've pretty much always had my act together. I've got a great career and I live comfortably. Sometimes I would wonder, was I doomed to failure as a writer because I hadn't experienced enough turmoil in my personal life?
That thought is silly, but it took my a while to learn this. I write because I love it, not because I need to expel my inner demons or believe that getting published is going to save me financially. I write for those moments when you capture the exact sentiment in exactly the way you want, for those unexpected plot turns that seem to jump right out of your fingertips on their own. I do it for my favorite part, the high you get when you figure out the perfect puzzle piece of your plot.
The writing doesn't always flow, and I still depend on external motivation to get me through the rough patches. While I can't claim abject poverty, I can manufacture my own small pushes, like the copy of Across The Universe on my Kindle that I'm dying to read, but won't let myself open until I finish revising this dreadful chapter. Like the goal to finish all my revisions before I leave on vacation in two weeks, so that I can get some distance from my MS while I'm away. Little dangling carrots to keep me moving, rather than the threat of a beatdown from my immediate circumstances.
What motivates you to keep writing? Carrots or sticks?