Why Would Anyone Try and Write a Novel? By Zoë Coyle

Screen Shot 2019-09-11 at 09.40.42.png

I think that’s a sane and fair question. Just roam through any book store, or scroll about an online seller and you’ll shudder at the number of hopes, dreams and ideas crammed between pages generally to be bought by staggeringly few, and read by even fewer still.

 A labour of love that may take a decade to write, the reader may consume in an afternoon, tossing it aside with a casualness that would feel like violence to the writer. The imbalance, the lunacy, the daring makes me want to vomit.

 So why would anyone feel compelled to climb the literary equivalent of Everest? Why step out of real-life and sit alone to excavate the internal? To birth imaginary characters and fabricated scenarios? Cajoling imaginative conjurings up while simultaneously battling the vicious inner critic, who’s ever whispering mantras are peppered with toxins like imposter, fake, pretentious, worthless.

 Well, I can only answer that for myself, as someone who until her 40th year was too petrified to take the leap and write the novel, and my answer is this - because the act of creating is a complete gift, in and of itself.

 I’m not saying it’s a narcissistic craft, writers have stories to share, the verb being the point there,

But the pursuit of it requires selfishness. Time after time as I closed the door on my family, to wrap my heart around my cold computer, it felt deranged to look at my choice too directly. I’d hear my real, alive loves laughing beyond the closed door while I had my chest slashed open re-reading my limpid scratchings from the day before. A self-imposed, perverse prison. But that doesn’t account for the magic. The astonishing worlds that blossom within. The characters that become in some way our lovers, our replacement parents, our mortal enemies, our best and worst selves. The adventures that place grapes between our teeth, Mayan dust in our hair, or turn our faces to the soft Tuscan dusk. During the time of writing my novel, my whole world, my entire self was richer. I felt it all more keenly. My brain fired up like a rocket. My curiosity doubled. An alchemy occurred and I was so struck with the profundity of this simple truth: Of course I hope my novel is published, and that people don’t think it’s dreadful, but even if it isn’t, even if they do, the gift it gave me in the writing of it has been truly wonderful. I went on an epic adventure, and I returned enriched and expanded. Whenever the final outcome, I stepped into the arena. I was bashed to the ground repeatedly, I left blood in the dirt, but here I stand, valiant, proud, more.

 So if you’re trying to justify writing yourself, I say this directly to you; back yourself, you won’t regret it, take flight!

 As Joseph Campbell says: The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

Polly McGee