Tuesday, June 5, 2012 | By: Lynn

Why Write

Whether a writer starts out jumping in with both feet without much thinking and just puts words to paper, or thoroughly assesses the field of publishing, acquires tools, and then begins creating works of writing, at some point the question arises and must be answered: Why write?

Why write, you ask? Hmm…because I like it.

Well, that’s an answer. It’s better than, “I like hanging out in coffee shops looking all author-like.” Real answers to “Why write?” are varied and sometimes actually mystical in nature. Many writers contend they’ve been writing since they were young and developing a writing career was the natural evolvement of things. Somehow knowing you’ve had a yen for something from a young age makes it more valid. I wrote my first stories in my head when I was too young to remember now how old I was. That makes me feel like at least I’m heading in the right direction now when I write, because I have a natural ability. Yeah.

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand, so for many writers, a love of a reading inspired a spark that prompted them to try their hand at creating stories. Yet again, for some people, writing is a way to make money, or at least an attempt to make money, from doing something they have passion about. They’ve taken to heart the saying, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” It makes sense, in a way. Passion has energy to get a writer through the hard work and struggle of creation. Passion supports the toil a good story needs, and contains the perseverance required to keep going when criticism mounts, inner or outer.

Inner and Outer
Writing lives in inner and outer, and writing is an inner-to-outer thing, whether what moves from inner to outer is a way of framing life’s challenges or a description of a lover’s kiss. As writers, we get an idea, then we play with it and let it expand inside our psyche until it needs to be “outed” and given form on paper. Ray Bradbury, in discussing writing his book “Farewell to Summer,” Ray Bradbury wrote about the compelling nature of bringing inner out into the material world.

"Writing it was a response to my ganglion and my antenna. I do not use my intellect to write my stories and books; I have a gut reaction to the things that my subconscious gives me. These are gifts that arrive early mornings and I get out of bed and hurry to the typewriter to get them down before they vanish."

Sharing and Connecting
Newish writer R.K. McPherson makes reference to the sharing element of writing, when in a recent interview he said he got into writing to impress a girl, but eventually has come to understand that writing for him is a way to enjoy meaningful connections to others.

 "…I realized how much relationships factor into my writing. Whenever I get feedback on a story, or an email from a fan, that’s a connection to cherish." 

About Self
But let’s get back to me. I made a list of my reasons for “Why write?:”
  • Self-expression feels good
  • I’m curious and writing gives my curiosity a satisfying outlet
  • I have an internal drive to move what is inner to outer and a hope that my story will entertain and enrich
  • I love words
Notice my list doesn’t include, I want to be famous or rich. Though I can appreciate that some people may see writing as a way to acquire those mesmerizing experiences, I think serious writers simply love writing. They have to, because it’s hard work that is fraught with self-doubt. You truly have to believe you have something worth saying. But more importantly, you have to understand that you have to say it, in your way. 

A long time ago, I read a quote from Valerie Martin as quoted in Publishers Weekly in The Writer . The quote has served as sort of a litmus test for me over the years.

“If you want to tell whether you’re a writer or not, just see if you can stop. It’s the basic test.” However true the suggestion, to enjoy genuine staying power, a writer needs to expand the question of “Why write,” and ask, “Why do I write?” Because sometimes it takes years to publish in a venue that bestows legitimacy (in your eyes), and sometimes readers pick at your words, your wonderfully crafted sentences. Sometimes self-doubt can make you question your “right” to do what you love or authority to express yourself. It’s in those recurring moments that you must consider that you write for you. This isn’t my original thought. It’s not even one I remember very often. In fact, my blog partner just recently brought me back to center, where all things creative and healthy live, when she said she knows she writes for herself. It was an “aha!” moment for me, though she’s said it before and she probably didn’t notice the fireworks going off behind my eyes. It’s something to really know, deep inside you. Because if you’re like me, you write for the readers, you write for the fun, you write for many reasons. But they all come back to you.

Image from Dreamstime


R.T. Wolfe said...

I've discovered a lot about why I write in the past few weeks. I was offered my first publishing contract. What an honor! But they wanted me to cut 12 to 17 K of my 92 K word romantic suspense. Then, the snowball began. I contacted other queried editors and, graciously, they slipped me to the top of their queues. This resulted in another offer. What an honor! But they wanted a three year contract and right of first refusal for subsequent novels in this series.
What I realized is that I really just want to write. I understand editors cut words, but I really didn't want to cut 12 K (publisher #1) and I really didn't want to make such a big commitment (publisher #2). I decided I would bargain with the publishers and if they rejected my counter-offers, so be it. I am prepared to self-pub. I haven't been in this business long enough to hold reservations about indie publishing. I think it has dozens of perks.
Both companies agreed to my counter offers. #1 agreed to cut just 5 K. #2 agreed to see about cutting the right of first refusal. Go figure.
In the end, I have my first contract. Still an honor! And the deeper understanding of why I'm here.
Thank you for the thoughtful blog post, Write Way Cafe'!
-R.T. Wolfe

Lynn said...

I think you're courageous and skilled, Tanya! Way to go!