A Perspective on Why We Write… or Should Write: a Guest Post by The World’s Strongest Librarian

Josh pic

I’m happy to host Josh Hanagarne here on Storyfix, and not just because he posted a guest article from me earlier this week.  Frankly, mine was a fluff piece offered in good fun, while his is a gift of perspective we would all be wise to absorb.  This guy has it figured out — combine an expertise that he gives away freely, delivered with wit and personality, all the while extending those ridiculously long arms to the world for a big hug in the process.

Read and learn.

For me, By Me: The Secret To A Writing Success That Still Baffles Me Every Day And May Eventually Blow Up In My Face

By Josh Hanagarne, World’s Strongest Librarian

“Josh, I read every book review you write, even though I don’t like to read.  And I read all of your strength and fitness stuff too, although I hate to exercise and don’t have any plans on starting.  Keep it coming.”

This was an email I received, a comment on my blog when the little tyke was two months old.  I was pretty freaking flabbergasted, but intrigued enough to ask this person what they meant by that.

“Oh, I don’t read your stuff because of what it says, I read it because you write it.” 

Just so you know, this person was not my mother or wife, and I didn’t pay them to say it.  I’m decidedly unattractive and nobody had any reason to say this to gain my favor. But who cares? If you’re a writer, you probably enjoy compliments.  I certainly do. I pretend I don’t love it, but nobody knows the power of a little encouragement going a long way better than a writer or a wannabe writer. 

But I did want to investigate what was behind this person’s praise and not just let it carry me away to La La Land.  I can’t spend all of my time there.  

So here’s what I know.

Fact

I love to write. 

I love to write even when I hate it.  Even when it hurts.  Sometimes especially when it hurts.  Even when it feels like pulling teeth.  And if that’s too cliché for you, how about even when it hurts like pulling teeth out of my eyeballs? I sit here and I stare at this stupid blinking cursor and I start pounding away, just so it will disappear for a few seconds.  And then, once I get going, I love it again.

Fact

I love to read.  And there is nothing I love to read more than a book where I can tell the author had a blast writing it.  Read one paragraph of any Tom Robbins book.  Love it or hate it, I defy you to tell me that Tom did not enjoy writing that paragraph.  I can feel it in every page, sentence, word, and punctuation mark 

When I ask myself why someone would enjoy my writing, regardless of the content—and please, I am not comparing myself to Tom Robbins—that’s what I come up with: I love to write and I suspect that it shows.

Born to write?

Nope, not me. I always loved telling stories, but writing them down had very little appeal for me. That is, until I had to give up my voice for three years. As an experimental treatment for what was becoming an unholy, unmanageable case of Tourette’s Syndrome.  Long story short, I got botox injections in my vocal cords.  I could no longer scream, so I could be out in public again, but I couldn’t really talk either. I could whisper a bit, but not even loudly enough to talk on the phone.

Every five weeks for three years, I got those stupid injections. And it didn’t take long before my inability to tell stories began to eat at me. It was eroding something very fundamental to this big goofy person.

So I started to keep journals. I found that writing was not only a welcome distraction from my symptoms, but a medicine that no joyless doctor was ever going to scratch out onto a prescription pad. 

Once the tics were more manageable and I was able to quit getting the injections, I needed the writing for different reasons. It was a healthy process that could not be separated from the person that I had become.

And at the time, I didn’t care that nobody ever read a word I wrote.

Enter The Blog

I started writing World’s Strongest Librarian for fun in April of 2009.  For me, by me. Every day I just tried to write something that would make me smile.  Not make me money, but just make me smile. I figured nobody would ever find me. The web had other plans.  Traffic rolled in and never rolled back out. This has resulted in lots of attention, some money, lots of friends and business opportunities, and the most wonderful literary agent in the world. 

In short, for better or worse, I feel like everything good that is happening is happening because I am being myself. I also get a lot of hate mail, which also convinced me that I’m being myself. But most of the feedback is positive. This confuses, bemuses, and amuses me all at once. I do what I like and that won’t change. That other people enjoy it is a wonderful bi-product that is deliriously fun. But it’s never the focus.

For me, by me. I know myself well enough to know that if I didn’t keep my writing for, I wouldn’t keep it.

Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy it. It’s too much work not to.

Get Stronger, Get Smarter, Live Better…Every Day

About the Author: Josh Hanagarne is the twitchy giant behind World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog about living with Tourette’s Syndrome, kettlebells, book recommendations, buying pants when you’re 6’8”, old-time strongman training, and much more. Please subscribe to Josh’s RSS Updates to stay in touch.

14 Comments

Filed under Guest Bloggers

14 Responses to A Perspective on Why We Write… or Should Write: a Guest Post by The World’s Strongest Librarian

  1. Pingback: Sideways Thinking | World's Strongest Librarian

  2. I love what you say about enjoying books that were obviously a pleasure to write. It’s become less common, but I treasure the authors (either in print or on the Internet) who love the craft for the craft.

    I read several books, blogs and even magazines despite my disinterest in the subject matter. For example, my husband subscribes to “Field & Stream,” and although I neither fish nor hunt I grab the latest issue as soon as it arrives in the mail because Bill Heavey’s columns in the back are among the funniest I’ve ever read.

    And I think you’re right: It’s easy to tell when a writer is writing for reasons other than love of the craft.

  3. Thanks Laura. One of the best examples I’ve ever seen of this is Ray Bradbury’s wonderful little book, “Zen In The Art Of Writing.” That guy loves to write, and that was the only book I’ve ever read that made me want to put it down to go and do some writing myself.

  4. I love the idea of doing what we want, living the life we want, and then the unexpected rewards that come from doing that. Thanks for the post!

  5. Josh,

    Of course we read everything you write. You rock 🙂

    I think people just find it easy to identify with you and your writing.

    Hate mail?? No way. I’m not sure that’s possible.

  6. Another home run Josh. you can always sum up things I believe very well and usually before I think about it. Can’t wait to read more, you have pointed out some new authors I hadn’t heard of before. My book backlog is huge. It’s a good thing some of them are on CD or MP3.
    Justin

  7. J.Morgan

    Inspirational isn’t the right word for this. I guess it’s more like finding out someone that else loves writing just as much, if not more than I do.

    I wake up in the morning having to get my son up and ready for school. But that’s not my first thought. Oh no. Like when I went to sleep my first and last thought is always of writing. Of getting better….. of learning ….and how much better my life has gotten since I began, two years ago.

    I’m not rich now, nor are my problems any smaller. But somehow I can take it. I can plow through life even if nobody reads a word that I write.

    I’m glad you love to write Josh.

    So do I. Keep sharing your thoughts…. for you by you…..

    Even if everything else is falling apart I know I can keep writing.

    Keep writing…

  8. @Rebecca: You’re welcome. Sounds like you’ve experienced some of it yourself.

    @Suzannah: It’s true. It’s really, really true, and I’ve got a ton of it. Most of it is sour grapes. Some of it is just the truly unhinged.

    @Justin: There are always worse problems than having too many things to read. Glad I could pile even more onto you.

    @J. Morgan: Writing is one of the healthiest things I’ve ever done for myself. For a lot of people who struggle with purpose and enjoyment in their lives, I think writing could very well be the missing piece in figuring things out.

  9. I’d like to second Josh’s last comment about how writing can — literally — save our lives by giving us purpose. Writing is an inherently lonely avocation… but look at us, otherwise complete strangers sharing our thoughts, giving feedback, encouraging each other, helping each other. Writing connects us to the universe, and to each other. The principles that make it work are the same as those that make life itself work — clarity of purpose, poetry in execution, boldness dancing with nuance, the discipline of structure, the courage to put it on the page, the gift of it, the humbling it can dish out in return… writing is life. It is a process and a journey as much as it is the pursuit of a goal, which pretty much sums up the human experience.

    I admire each of you who commit to writing as part of your life, and I am blessed to be among you. Sorry about this little gushy moment — Josh, it’s your fault — but hey, that’s part of the deal, too.

  10. Hey Josh and Larry,
    I wasn’t expecting to arrive to find a literal bromance (no pun intended).

    But, I’m pleasantly surprised.

    I love both of you guys; keep on keeping on!
    🙂

  11. Lori, if you had to choose between us, who would win? Come on:)

  12. Phew – that is food for thought. I wrote a book for NaNoWriMo and its complete. So I am deciding what to do with it but that is not the real issue.
    The real issue is being too scared to sit down and write again in case I struggle or the words don’t come as easy. Silly but true. So no excuses now, if I can, I must!
    PS Thanks again for the guest post for my blog Josh. I need to hit that Crazy Switch in another dimension!

  13. janice

    Loved the gushy moment, Larry. Glad you and Josh are two of the folk I’m sharing the writing journey with.

    Josh – I enjoyed this. Like you, I write for myself because I love it.

    Recently, I’ve been I’ve been having a break from writing, or more accurately, public writing. I only write well if inspiration overflows from a life filled to the brim with presence, insight, love and creativity. I discovered that too much time spent writing online detaches me from the real world, the source of all my soul-fuel; the blogging world is an inspiring, stimulating place, full of friendships and opportunities, but blogweariness crept in imperceptibly and drained the life-blood from my writing. A refreshed love of reading and a voracious appetite for new music have reassured me I’m just going through a phase of refilling the well and getting the balance back.

    Thank you, Larry and Josh, for a post that made me glad I dipped my toes back in.

  14. @Fiona: Congrats on that novel! I’ve thought about Nano month for a couple of years now, but haven’t dived in. Good for you. Throw the switch!

    @Janice: If you’re glad, I’m glad. Good luck with everything. Even if nobody sees what you write, it’s not a waste if you’re doing it for you.