Put simply, I write because I can’t imagine not writing. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write — even when I was too young for actual written words I spent all my time in my own head, making up stories about why my index finger hated my little finger, or which universe the secret door under the desk led to. The stories in my head always felt incredibly real to me, so it probably wasn’t a huge surprise that I started writing them down as soon as I was able.
As a child I wrote almost as voraciously as I read. My evenings and weekends were often dominated by writing (and also ballet, but that passion faded somewhat as I got older); I well remember my mother’s frustration when she found me again and again, hiding under the covers in the middle of the night, writing by torchlight. I don’t think I ever managed to clearly explain that I was not simply being disobedient, but that the compulsion to write was so overpowering — and the fear of losing the words if I did not write them down immediately so pronounced — that I felt like I had no choice in the matter.
That compulsion has never really gone away. There has never been a time in my life when I didn’t write on a regular basis (though I have had the odd six-month sabbatical). The way in which I write has changed a bit over time – what used to be just a straightforward need to write down a character or a situation has developed into a desire to construct interesting narratives, or to craft beautiful or unusual sentences – but the basic desire to discover other perspectives, to explore different viewpoints, to give voice to people who might not otherwise speak is still the driving force.
It’s often said that writing is a form of escapism, and in some ways I don’t doubt that’s true — except that the only thing I’ve ever tried to escape is boredom. I write to escape to places, rather than escape from them; to experience feelings and situations that I might not otherwise encounter, or explore ideas which might not directly affect my daily life. Writing is the way I process what’s going on around me. Sometimes it’s exhilarating, sometimes it’s irritating, but either way it’s necessary: I write because I am not capable of not writing.
Sara Marshall-Ball spent her formative years in Cambridge. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Derby before moving to Brighton in 2007. She worked as a proofreader of gravestones to support herself through her MA in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Sussex, during which she wrote much of her debut novel Hush, which is out now from Myriad. Say hi to her on Twitter.