While at the Pennwriter’s conference today, the question was posed, why do I write, and the question stunned me. I had had many people me ask me throughout the day what I wrote, but I hadn’t really every thought about the why of writing. I know that I decided one day to do it, but again why?
Take a minute to think about this question. On the surface, this question seems pretty straightforward. I write because I want to, I like to, I need to. But that really isn’t an answer is it? Say we ask any serial killer why they kill and I imagine that we might get the same answer. Doesn’t that seem disturbing? Not that I think writers are like serial killers (though some of us play ones in our heads), but I think there is more to the question than a simple comment.
So why do I write? It is certainly not to make money. The average salary for a writer is not enough to live on. Yet thousands of people get up and write every day. When I was young, in high school, writing along with acting was one of the most desirable careers. Until the actual experience with the craft and the reality that writing is WORK, acting is work, sunk in. So writing for money is out.
Maybe I write for praise. prestige, fame? Do I have some inner demon in need of some love or some driving desire to get some attention? No, I don’t think that is the case. One because, I don’t necessarily like attention, and two, writing is subjective, very subjective, and very personal. It is true, at least I feel, that there is a little bit of the writer in every book. Be it the personal touches, the traits you give your characters to make them stand out and draw the reader in. Sometimes as simple as knocking three times. Penny, Penny, Penny. Or maybe it is the thought process. Or maybe it was the origin of the idea coming from reading a bedtime story with your daughter. It could be one or none of those. Yet all of those are the writer. And if that was my driving desire, then how exposed would I be by putting myself out there? Because now-a-days, there is a lot of rejection within writing. There is a lot of emphasis on critique and view point and just plain style. What might work for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another. So why writing, you are risking all the negative along with the positive. at least in my eyes. Plus, if people didn’t have likes and dislikes and everyone loved everything, well, that would be pretty boring work.
No, the reason I write, is that I want to tell a story. That story does not have to be the next pullitzer prize winning story. It doesn’t need to inspire the world, but if it manage to inspire one person, it would be worth it. I feel this same way in my other ‘job’ as a doctor. There are significant drawbacks along with the perks of being a physician but the real reason I am a doctor is that I want to help someone. Be it to reduce their risk of heart disease or inspire them to achieve any goal they set their mind to, or look at the why’s behind the actions of everything. No, to inspire, to express, that is why I write. Hopefully, by realizing this, I will be a better writer and learn more every day.
P.S. Please excuse any grammatical errors, I wrote this close to midnight and it has been a long and productive day!