Monday, August 19, 2013

The Importance of Knowing Why You Write

When asked, 'Why do you write?' many of us will give a quick answer, 'Because I must.' While this, to a point, is often true, there's more to it than that. It's too easy to fall in love with the romanticism of the statement—that writing somehow has an irresistible hold on us, that we're slaves to the creative spark. But of course we're not chained to the muse at all. We can walk away at any time, and many of us do when the hard slog gets too much, when we allow life to distract us, when the excuses smother the writing urge.

When we say, 'I write because I must,' and don't go any further, we do ourselves a disservice. We need to go deeper, to understand where that need is coming from and what it truly is so when times get tough, we can weather through or save ourselves the trouble. Knowing the true reason, understanding that deep need, will also help us focus in the right areas of writing so, for example, we won't waste our time attempting the grandiose when really we'll gain the most satisfaction in the opposite direction, or vice versa.

Knowing the whys will help us understand what we want to get out of writing. Some of us write to work through a life issue. Some write for escapism, some to explore a concept, some for a little extra money on the side. There are countless reasons. No reason is invalid, even if you write in the hope of taking a slice of the fame pie. But each reason might change the way you write, how often you write, even what you write.

So, knowing why you write will help you work out the strategy to reach the true goals you want.

What are the reasons you write? 

66 comments:

  1. It's certainly good to think about this question Lyn, and it's true we can walk away any time we want. I don't think many of us write for the money, as very few make a dollar out of it. However, I do think there's an element of 'I write because I can't not write.' My life would be pretty empty if I didn't write -- how much time do I spend dreaming up stories? There's so much satisfaction in seeing our 'dreams' on paper. I think you will get some interesting comments here.

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    1. Yes! Seeing those 'dreams' of paper really is a wonderful thing.

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  2. I definitely know I like to write stories as a means of therapy! I'm not very good at verbal expression but I find freedom in writing words! Take care
    x

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  3. Your post has made me reconsider some things. I am one of those who say I must write and it is true. But lately I haven't been living up to that statement as much as I'd like. So maybe I need to come up with a deeper explanation. Thanks for this post, it will make all readers seriously consider why they write if they're writers.

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    1. I'd love to know what you eventually come up with about why you must write.

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  4. So true. I write because I love escaping. I love exploring issues in writing that I wouldn't be able to do in real life. And sometimes, it helps me deal with bad stuff in a positive way.

    Yeah... writing is mostly about writing but I must, but it's a bit of therapy and a bit of meditation thrown in too. :-)

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  5. I like that... so true that I give quick responses, but most of the time, if it is to someone who isn't a writer, i feel like they won't understand where I'm coming from. But, I should give it a go:)

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  6. I don't write because I must.
    I began writing so I could read the stories I couldn't find anywhere else. It was also a creative outlet.
    Of course now I also have music. So I obviously don't have to write, as there's a good chance I won't write anything else after this last book.

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  7. Nowadays I only write a journal (which I have done almost every day for the last 10 years). I do it because I want to remember what happened in my life, and also so I can present a record of me to my children when they are older.

    Duncan In Kuantan

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  8. I write because there is are stories inside of me screaming to come out. The 'voices' in my brain become tangled, thoughts and ideas trip over each other. I'm afraid if I don't release them, I'll go insane. Yes, I do want part of the fame pie. I have dreamed of my trilogy being made into films. There is an insatiable need to share my words with the world, to touch even one person's life. To know my stories will live on long after I'm gone. In a way, it's the closest I'll ever get to immortality. Other than my children, I will have left something behind in this world, something tangible, proof of my existence. I am, therefore I write. Dorky, I know, but that's how I feel. Great post and fantastic thought-provoking question. I'm sure it will make a lot of writers think.

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    1. Ah, yes, writing for sanity's sake. I'm familiar with that one in particular ;)

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  9. Mother Dragon always said "you must know why you want to do the things you do." She believes this gives you a better idea on the what to do, how to do then and when. I think it is very useful.

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  10. I write because I love it. I write because I like escaping reality. I love to disappear in a world where I can be and do anything I want, unlike the real world. Great post.

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  11. Writing provides a creative outlet unlike any other. In addition to the sheer joy of creating a story, our words have the potential of making readers laugh, cry, and feel. Writing a story that touches a reader's heart is our gift to them, and their appreciation and ability to relate to it is their gift back to us.

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    1. yes! Your comment resonates with me. It's about making that connection!

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  12. Why do I write? Been trying to figure that out. Not necessarily about writing, but about blogging. What's the purpose of my blogging?

    I write because I've always been a natural (oral) storyteller. Not a liar...a storyteller! (There's a difference)

    I write because I don't have kids and want to leave a legacy. I write to bring attention to the world's plight through story. I write to change opinions. I write to recapture worlds and times that were better than this. Perhaps I'm romanticizing, or romanticising (as you would say), but behavioral evolution is making the world less...fun. Less safe. Less kind. I want to tell stories of a time when it was more wholesome. When kids respected elders (and adults took care of their elders).

    I write because I have something to say. I only hope somebody's listening.

    Now...to figure out what the heck I'm blogging about.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. I think you do a little of all that in your blogging as well, my friend.

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  13. To get the stuff out of my head, simple as that at my mat

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  14. we want to be rich and famous.... and we want to hold the masses hypnotized :)

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    1. A totally valid reason.
      Might take a while though. ;)

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  15. Love Dezzy's answer :)

    I write for the joy of it and because I believe in happy ever afters :)

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    1. see, Lyndy, I've already hypnotizes Jemi, didn't take me a while :P

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    2. You have a point. In fact, I suspect you've spun your magic on me too ;)

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  16. Mine started out to 'see if I could do it - if I could write an entire novel.' Now I write because I enjoy it. I've been bit by the writing bug. ;)

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    1. Do you use anything to stop the itching though? ;)

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  17. I write because I have a story to tell. I do not want to lie on my deathbed with an untold story and wonder, "What if?"

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  18. I've always written, but I got serious about it at a time when I didn't think life could get any worse. I created a character surrounded by a world that was ten-times more awful than mine, to make me feel better about my circumstances. Once you step over the line, I don't think there's any going back. ;)

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    1. I think that's why writing as a therapeutic pastime is so popular. It's so effective!

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    2. Agreed! Oh, and you've been nominated for a blog award. I hear they're therapeutic too. ;)

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    3. Aw, thank you so much, Crystal!

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  19. Such a good question! I completely agree we need to understand this to weather the storms we face in this business. I know I write for escape and to work through issues, though I imagine there are other things buried in there that I have yet to fully recognize :)

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  20. I channel both my passion for improving the world, no matter how small my relative contribution, and my talents through the written word. I write because I form words well on the page and because I can't imagine not doing this thing we seem compelled to do. Fame has little to do with it. Glory less still.

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    1. ha, yeah. There are easier things to do to become famous ;)

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  21. It's all about getting to the heart of the matter. Very good post, I have so introspection to do.

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  22. Good advice, Lynda. I picked up writing again to make money and I started out writing articles on writing. However, my love of storytelling won me over and that's where my writing has blossomed. I still write articles, but that's rare.

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  23. I write because it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I like creating things. :)

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  24. Excellent advice. I've fallen into that rut. I write because I love creating new worlds and characters. I love living their lives with them and going on adventures that I'll never get to go on in real life. I write because I love it when a reader gets excited as I am about the worlds in my head.

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    1. Isn't that the best--when readers respond in like to our worlds!

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  25. Nice question to post! and good ponderings about why we write. I like it because it's fun and creative. And I have control to make a story just the way I want it (even though I do like the surprises of reading others' work). :)

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  26. Good question. It varies. Some days it's a great high, others an endurance contest.
    Thanks for coming by the blog and for the follow.
    Have a pleasant, productive evening.

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  27. I have to admit (well, I don't have to, but I'm going to) that when I hear (read) someone say, "I must write!" I tend to visualize a lot of dramatic hand flapping, eye-widening and possibly the tossing of hair. Writing might feel like a biological imperative from time to time, but I'm pretty sure the biologists are unanimous in agreeing that it categorically is not. :)

    Like Alex above, one of the reasons I write is because there are stories I want to read that haven't been written--and I enjoy telling them. It's also immensely satisfying. There is nothing to compare to the high I feel when I complete a piece of fiction (short stories up till now) or a poem.

    The fame and fortune when they come (never hurts to be optimistic about these things) will be icing!

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    1. lol, I love your visualisation of "I must write!"
      And yes, those missing stories must be told!

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  28. I write because I love stories, characters and imagination. I write because I want to share those things with others. I write because it gives me incredible joy. :)

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  29. I always say its a calling, a hobby, a blessing and a curse. I love it, I set goals, I work to become better, and I love sharing and having what I've written read and enjoyed. I want to make a difference with my writing, I want to entertain, and I want to leave a legacy, leave my mark on the world. 100 years from now I want my book on a shelf in a library or on a bedside table.


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  30. It's something I need to think about. I seem to have undergone a change that requires me to re-evaluate writing fiction. I haven't written anything in six months; I'm hoping that will change, but I need to know how and why.

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  31. Because it's fun! I don't think I need another reason. I like stories. It's fun to read/hear them or to tell them. I'm passionate about it. What else do I need?

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  32. I write because it gives me a chance to say and do the things that I don't have the courage or the opportunity to say or do in real life. It also helps me sort out my feelings about certain people and situations; it's much better than keeping it bottled up inside.

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  33. For love of stories. I'm a story whore, always have been.

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  34. I write in my journal sometimes to work out issues; but most of my writing is because story ideas or poems tickle my brain until I do something about it.

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  35. I definitely have written poetry to express my feelings. Also some picture book wip themes have varied depending on my interests or even my children's interests at the time. Good thing to stop and think about!

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  36. Interesting post. It made me think about why I write. I'd say it's because the stories build up and need to be let out.

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  37. There are so many reasons I write: for the joy of telling every character's story, for the ability to disappear into alternate worlds, for therapy as I just need to write, else the characters will drive me mad.

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  38. I write to better myself and my talent. And of course, because it brings me joy.

    Thanks, Lynda!

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  39. I love this question. Because I ignored the ideas too many years. When I finally let myself actually write, it fulfilled me in a way no other "job" has. When I have periods without writing, I feel an emptiness. Because I want to impact readers the way books impacted me. Because I feel, besides bringing my children into the world, it's the best way to leave the world a better place... if only I'd get published.

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    1. You WILL get published one day. I totally believe it. Your stories are wonderful!

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  40. i love to write and get the creative juices that are flowing out on paper!

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  41. I'd say it's definitely a creative output. Before I wrote, I was always working on something whether it to be quilting or scrapbooking. I love writing what I love to read and found that to be true to myself that's what I need to do.

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  42. You are so right, Lynda. I love to read and I love to create, not only in my writing but in my quilts and crafts. Writing is mental hard work, but when it flows and I reread what I wrote, either I'm amazed or disappointed.I know I have something when the characters come to life and I like being transformed into another world, like when I read.

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  43. At the end of my last semester at uni, in my final lecture for my creative writing subject, our teacher spend a long time asking us all how we would REALLY answer that question. It was really cool hearing some of the reasons people came up with. I remember one girl said "Because in real life, I don't have good comedic timing, but when I write, I can take my time thinking of good come-backs and witty remarks." Or something along those lines.

    I think I'd have to take a bit of time to think of the most suitable answer at the moment. Thanks for this blog post Lynda :D Happy writing.

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  44. I write because it's a release from everyday life. And those characters need somewhere to go other than my head, otherwise it would get too crowded in there. Stories are meant to be shared, not kept to one person.

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  45. I guess knowing why you write, helps you keep going, even when things aren't going the way you'd like them to.

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  46. My characters need to be let loose, I enjoy being in another world that I created, and learning the craft makes me feel productive.

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  47. I agree, why we write is a good question. Sometimes the answers are surprising. :-)

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.