Why we write.

I have, so far, limited my postings to this blog to the realm of fiction. For this submission, I would like to step back to the foundation of my writing, to reporting and facts.

People sometimes ask me why I write (although, in my case, the question is usually prefaced with another question, often delivered in a rather incredulous voice: “You write?”), and I sometimes struggle to answer the question. So when the question popped up as part of a discussion about writing among a group of writer’s I am associated with online, I thought it might be a good idea to see what motivated my fellow writers. Their answers were enlightening.

 

Robin Strachan wrote of how the need to write came to her early in life:

“I was 12 when I decided to become a writer. As a kid, I wrote stories and poetry — for pleasure. I wrote while other kids played. Writing WAS my play time.”

For Robin, the need to write led to a career that let her write for others, but the need to express herself spurred her on. As she approached midlife, the drive to write led her to start writing her ideas down. Finally, one made the transition from idea to novel:

“The first book was more of a regional novel, but it got good reviews. The second novel got picked up by a publisher, and it was then that I realized … Oh my goodness, I’m an author. I did it. I lived my dream.”

So, what keeps a writer writing? Robin’s insight is both simple and compelling:

“Now the story ideas line up in my head, and people want to hear more about them, and they want to read those books, so I have a responsibility to fulfill my promise — to myself and to them. That’s why I write.”

 

Carla Suson felt she wrote because her characters wanted her to:

“The characters bounce around inside, whispering and wanting to get out.”

Carla also expressed another reason, one that many of the writers spoke of-the enjoyment a writer gets from hearing someone say they enjoyed reading about their character:

“Money is nice but the biggest thrill I get is when a reader says ‘your characters are so real that I want to read more.’”

 

Suzzane Brazil’s take on why writer’s write spoke to another common theme- to clear our minds, and make sense of things:

“For most of my life, I wrote to clear things out of my head. It’s the way I make sense of life and the world.”

Like some other writers, Suzzane started writing factual works, and moved into fiction later on. For her, the drive to change came from what she enjoyed in a good story:

“Now, turning to fiction, learning the craft and getting lost in stories, it’s to feel that lost feeling, the being entwined in something that’s coming from your own mind! Like reading a great book, I’m hooked on that feeling of being inside a story.

My goal is to provide that same lost in another world feeling to readers.”

 

Paul Holler pointed towards another thing that drives many writers-the desire to leave something of themselves behind in the world:

“I think I write because it’s my way of scrawling “Kilroy Was Here” on a wall. I see a written work as a created entity. My stories would not exist if I did not create them. It’s a way of leaving something behind that is mine.”

 

Maggie Kast spoke of writing as an act of creating:

“My first career was in dance, and I also raised kids. I loved to bake bread, and as I kneaded the dough, a felt the commonality of these three forms of making: dances, babies, bread. Now I make stories, a memoir, a novel, and I expect to go on making things as long as I live.”

 

Chiara Talluto remembered something she had written earlier about why she wrote, of how writing can appeal to an introvert’s desire to express themselves:

“It’s been said before that writing is an introvert’s sport. It’s the type of work that so solitude that it is only in thought, that words are formed into sentences. Some days the mind can be with such thriving emotion, that words cannot come out fast enough. Other times, a blank page is one can see on the empty lines.”

Chiara also spoke of the insecurity many writers experience, the wonder of whether our efforts will ever be appreciated, and whether we should just write for ourselves:

“With strewn pages and assorted colored inks, one writes, and writes the most inner most thoughts and desires. Hoping someone would find their writing worthwhile. But it is not who we write for, but for ourselves and ourselves only that we should write.”

 

Unlike some of the others, John Papiewski doesn’t feel he has characters screaming to be let out, but when he does feel the need to write, the connection is still there:

“I envy those who have a burning desire to write, as if the muses have gun to your head. I’ve spent many years not writing, and the hermit in me would be fine with doing nothing at all. But, when I write I find a deep root and what comes out is odd and interesting.”

 

That “inner hermit” is something Suzanne Campbell shares with John, though she feels the need other writers do to express themselves through their writing:

“My inner hermit would be content with a handful of thoughtful readers, but I guess I would carry on, perhaps fitfully, without any.”

But there is more to writing, as any writer can tell you-the writer creates everything in their story:

“I write my novels because I enjoy creating a world; it feels very powerful.”

As I do, Suzanne shares a the love for the printed book, which is something else that drives her to write:

“I’m in the midst of a self-publishing venture because I love books as physical objects — their heft, scent, mysterious promise – and want to see my thoughts and characters between the covers of a beautiful book.”

 

K.B. Jensen feels, like some others, that she writes “because I can’t help it”. But that is not the only thing that sets her to writing:

“For me, writing is a way to escape, make sense of the world and dream on paper.”

 

That desire to make sense of the world is shared by Melanie Holmes, as is the way that writing helps the writer make sense of the world around them:

“Throughout my life, I’ve journaled when something is bothering me. Inevitably, I find myself turning the issue round & round until I reach other perspectives.”

 

For her part, Serena Wadhwa feels her writing is a way for her to connect with others, and hopefully, to help others see they can reach out too:

“Sometimes it’s a bit scary to put out there what I’m thinking and believe; however, I look at it as a way to hopefully let another know it’s okay to put out there what they think and believe, too.”

 

Della Leavitt prefaced her response with an excellent quote from Thomas King: “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.” From there, Della goes, I think, to the heart of why people write:

“I write seeking to unravel life’s perplexing contradictions. If I am artful, readers may use my skein of work to weave their own tailor-made garments.”

 

And me? I cannot claim to be any great shakes, either as a philosopher or a writer. Like others, I feel the call to express myself in words, and have had the occasional character that got in my head and screams at me until I let them out through my writing. And I too feel hope that, in my own insignificant way, I can leave something behind that says “Look, I was here.”

But on the deepest level, I think all writers write because it is in the nature of humans to tell stories. I have no doubt that we have been doing that since we learned to express ourselves in words, and that writing is just the modern equivalent of the bard, or the poet, standing in front of the crowd to tell their tale. No doubt, those earlier tellers of tales experienced the uncertainty of not knowing what their audience thought of their work until the very end. Unlike them, the modern writer rarely has the gift of immediate feedback. Our curse is that we can only hope that someone, somewhere, has been touched by our words and will remember us.

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6 thoughts on “Why we write.

  1. I began writing in 3rd grade, in one of those cardboard books covered in contact or wallpaper. The first expression was about a dog coming to visit a girl (me), the two of us playing and then the dog dying (even then I knew the importance of a “hook”). In high school I took a creative writing class and the prompts made my imagination swirl. I had so many ideas that I had to write them all, giving them to the other students in the class who were struggling, so that the teacher would grade every piece. Entering adulthood, writing for the most part stopped, except for heartfelt, overwrought poetry when love went wrong. After my beloved soul-sister dog died in my late forties (interesting coincidence no?), I rediscovered my passion and have been writing ever since. Why do I write? It is a connection with me, the me behind the body and the mind. The words come from my spirit by way of a keyboard or pen. I am reintroduced to who I really am with every sentence and find that it is more difficult to get lost when I’m continuously writing.

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