Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why do you write?

Why do you write? It’s not enough to say, “Because I must.” That’s the ethereal answer reserved for strangers. We often fall back on that answer because we don’t believe our non writing friends and acquaintances would truly understand.

Yes, it’s a yearning based on the human need to express ourselves. Words whisper to us when the house is hushed in the early hours of the morning, or in the late hours of the night. They call to us when our minds wander through the chaos or boredom of daily life.

But why? Why are writers so cursed, so blessed, with the need to write?

I believe this question can only be answered by each individual writer. It’s different for everyone and, I think, our reasons shift and change as much as the tides. Below I’ve listed some possible reasons. I’d love to know if any resonate with you.

It’s a way of making a difference to the world.
If your words can reach out into the vastness of the human race and touch just one person, to move them to cry, to laugh, to learn, to sing, then you’ve found your calling as a writer.

It’s a way of making sense of this world. We live in a bewildering world full of strange and amazing experiences. There is so much we don’t understand, so much we can’t quite grasp. Writing may help you to unravel some of the questions you’ve longed to answer. It might help you to speculate on the what ifs.

It’s a way of showing others we aren’t alone. When we write we share with others through the lives of our characters, the experience of the human condition. We want to relate to each other. We want to know we aren’t alone in our feelings, thoughts and dreams.

It’s a way of escaping a harsh reality. There is magic in writing. We can create any world we want and people it with any character we desire. Our imaginations are our only limit. Our stories can become a place we can escape to from a difficult or unwanted reality.

It’s a way of earning a living. A famous Australian cartoonist once admitted in an interview that he hated cartooning, but he pursued it because he was good at it. He said he needed to earn a living somehow. This might take the romanticism out of writing, but it’s just as valid a reason as any other.

What are some reasons you write? Have any of your reasons changed over the years?

Pic: Light Festival in Hong Kong

42 comments:

  1. I write because I have fabulous stories to tell. Better than exist out there in the genre I read. I have to believe that... if I didn't I wouldn't write.

    CD

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  2. A beautiful post, I am most glad I stopped by. :) Your answers do resonate with me. I may word it slightly different, but the underlying meaning is similar. I love sharing ideas, broadening my own thinking and helping others to do the same. It is true I must write, because I question everything, all the time, and yes, it is a way for me to make sense of it all. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on why you write!

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  3. I feel writing gives me a sense of release. I don't get so stressed when I know I'm working on something I love. Also, as you've pointed out, it’s a way of escaping a harsh reality.

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  4. Clarissa, absolutely!! Sometimes the stories demand to be told. We are a slave to the stories...and when we know they are equal or better than the stories in publication then we gain that fire of determination that's so needed to finish the task :)

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  5. JW, sharing ideas and broading the way we all think is a noble reason to write (you might not think so, I do).

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  6. I have to write because there's no other way for the voices of the characters in my head to be heard. At least, not in any way which won't earn me a specially padded room.

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  7. Natascha, yes! exactly. When you do soemthing you are meant to be doing stress has a way of vanishing.

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  8. Jeffrey, lol! I think 90% of writers belong in a padded room -- that's part of our genius ;)

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  9. There are a couple other things that I'm interested in pursuing career-wise, but writing may just be my strongest because it's easier and safer than what else I've got in mind. I have a better chance of entertaining someone through my writing than through acting, and writing is a safer way of making a difference in the world than through law enforcement.

    But really, I just can't make up my mind and I love it so much!

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  10. I write because I want to move people with the power of the human spirit and the strength we possess.

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  11. All of your reasons did really resonate with me. Also what Natascha said. I was stessed out and miserable before, doing a job that forced me to work crazy hours and stifled my creativity. Now I'm happily working at a job that pays the bills, but leaves me lots of time to write.

    If I could ever write full time, and pay the bills that way, it would be great, but if not, I'll write anyway.

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  12. I used to write to escape. Now I write because I want to be a better writer. God willing, maybe some day I'll be good enough to do it for a living.

    Great post, and intriguing responses!

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  13. This is a great post! Writing is definitely a form of escapism for me where I control everything going on in the world!

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  14. Wonderful post! I think why you write and why you want to be published can get confused. For me...I got caught up in studying publishing/agents/the market etc...and it took away from the fun of writing. It was time to step back and enjoy writing again...

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  15. i started making up stories to escape harsh reality... then it just became addictive. a game for the brain to play when standing in line or on a long drive. now, i'm trying to learn how to put those stories into words so i can share them! because stories are fun, escape is relaxing, and maybe someone (them or me) will learn something from it... so i guess that's a lot of the same things you said above! :)

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  16. I write because I love living vicariously through my chracters, experiencing things I already have, but for the first time with my character's POV. How lucky are we, as writer's, to experience so many 'first's' for the second, maybe even third times?

    Plus, the voices in my head tell me they want out, so I sit at the computer and away I go.

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  17. Amanda, writing a book may not be as safe as you think...there's that insanity issue we all need to deal with ;)

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  18. Alex, your statement reminds me of Gene Roddenberry for some reason. I think he might have approached his creations in a similar way.

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  19. Melissa, anything that stifles our creativity will make us miserable. It's such a great feeling to find the time to write.

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  20. Tere, sounds like we are very alike :)

    Aubrie, but do you really have control of your stories and worlds, or do they have control of you? ;)

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  21. Sharon, That's a good point. The desire to write could be completely different to the desire to get published. The business side of it certainly sucks the life out of writing for me too ;)

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  22. Aspiring, words spoken by a master daydreamer :) The best writers are always thinking up new stories (ie daydreaming). They also never stop learning to improve their craft.

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  23. Nathalie, we ARE lucky as writers to have that opportunity to - as you say - experience so many firsts :) And yes, those voices must be obeyed ;)

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  24. I write because I have stories to tell. If I don't tell these stories I am sure my characters would torture me to death. And I write to make sense of this world.

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  25. Rachna, yep torture from the characters isn't a great way to go ;)

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  26. I write because the stories in my head build up if I don't. They need an outlet. And I secretly hope that others will like them as well as I do.

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  27. you give some lovely reasons as always, Lynds.

    I think I said it before that I write and create when some energy wells up inside me and starts spilling out. Like a river. It's never something planned, never something with agenda. But what comes out often has one of the functions you've mentioned.


    Working in publishing industry and reading lots of manuscripts and early editions, I must admit I can't stand writers who write just because they want to and because they see others doing it even though they really don't have the magic hidden in them. Books made by such writers are my biggest professional nightmare.

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  28. It’s a way of making sense of this world.

    I hate admiting that I write for that reason but I think I do. I WANT to write to share what I hope will change others but I think normally I write to stort things out.

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  29. Alison, our stories definitely need an outlet.

    Samantha, sanity is sometimes overrated, but I hear ya ;)

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  30. Dezmond, I love it when the magic happens and the stories take over, when the need to write is all consuming.

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  31. Terri, ah yes, but when you write to sort things out, you also help to sort things out for other people too :)

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  32. I wish I knew! I feel very very lucky that these stories pop into my head... with characters that talk and won't stop coming at me with events in their lives. I hope that their stories mean as much to others as they do to me!

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  33. Deniz, because your stories matter to you, I have no doubt they will matter to others as well. :)

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  34. I'm brand new to the writing world, just started in January. I've written in journals, had little plot bunnies my whole life, just wasn't aware what they were until now!

    Speaking of which! I just had a plot bunny while writing this comment (had to stop writing and write it down) also while watching Rachel Zoe (all about mulit-tasking!) Yay! Writing isn't as tough as I thought tonight.

    Anywho! I love to write, I can't imagine my life without writing, and all my writing buddies wrapped in it as well!!! Such a special world of all of us!

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  35. Jen, you are doing well for only having started in January. Impressive :)

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  36. I'd have to say it's a way of figuring out the world for myself. Call it therapy or writing practice, it's generallly the same thing:-)

    Cinette
    http://cinettesmusings.blogspot.com/

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  37. Cinette, therapy is a great way of putting it :)

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  38. I write for all those reasons, and because my characters talk to me. I want to share their stories, their experiences. Especially if it means making a difference in someone else's life.

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  39. Stina, making a difference in someone's life is a big one

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  40. Why did cavemen leave petroglyphs?
    Why did the Egyptians leave hieroglyphics inside the pyramids?
    Why do poets write their poems?

    I guess I write to say I was here and let people know what I was thinking and what I experienced while I was here.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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