I’m often asked what made me want to write a book. Time after time, I found that question strange but I couldn’t pinpoint why.

1 woodsWalk with me a little: I always knew I wanted to write, and I remember writing short stories and poems during recess and even a murder mystery that took weeks of playground time to complete. (My babysitter was the only one to read the first draft of the mystery. She figured out whodunit by page 2, and I realized, painfully, that I had to rewrite the whole thing. So I did.)

There were times when I knew I would always write, and times that I could sense a choice coming between writing and working at a career that would pay the bills. One such time, a friend said to me, “Keep going with your writing. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” This friend started her own business and works hard at it, which made this not just any advice, but advice I could believe in.

My good writing days always amaze me. My bad ones tend to leave me with puzzles to solve, which isn’t such a bad thing. I had a conversation about this yesterday that went a little something like:

My friend Brian: Jody, how’s the writing going?

Me: Pretty good. I finished a blog and two articles this week but still haven’t written one of my characters out of the cab I put him into a couple weeks ago. It’s getting frustrating.

Brian: Oh, okay.

Today I realize the problem is that my cab character may not be going where I think he’s going. I’ll meander here a second, remembering the first time I spoke to a classroom studying my book in which one student asked, “But you write them. Shouldn’t they do what you tell them to do?”

“Yes, they should,” I told her, and I laughed despite myself. “But they don’t—not all the time. Imagine putting your entire family in a room together for a party. You know these people well, and you know they don’t all get along. But will Cousin Betsy start shouting about politics or will Uncle Dan play music this time and they’ll dance on the tables ‘til his pants split? I simply set the scene and I wait.”

In fact, I look at most situations in life and ask, “How will I write about this?” From childhood memories to weddings and funerals to the sound of my neighbor’s muffler (a cross between a faraway crop duster and a maddening low frequency hum trapped in a cave), I work on descriptions. I thought everybody did. So before I conclude our walk and I return to sitting in the cab with my character again, I’ll finally get to the point I was making earlier. When I’m asked what made me want to write a book, I say, “Doesn’t everyone?”

1 pathThis answer drives at the heart of what I really believe, that from sitting around the dinner table, to making a phone call home, we’re a world of communicators–and not just to impart information to each other, we change the stories based on the audience. Think about how you can take the same story and tell it to your Grandma one way so she appreciates the irony in it, and tell it a slightly different way to your kids, so they laugh at the right parts.

Let’s face it: We’re storytellers.

The question is not so much “Why write?” as it’s, “What took you so long?”

Imagine the possibilities with a question like that…

Upside Down Kingdom is available on Amazon.