Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#250) -- Why Do I Write?

What drives you to write? Why do you do it?

Ask that question in a group of writers, and you'll often hear this answer: "I write because I have to." Or some writers may put it this way: "I write because the stories and/or the characters make me."

Of course, we all (as writers) understand that either of these responses mean absolutely nothing to a non-writer. Those are not reasons for writing, for putting effort into something that may or may not pay off in any sensible way. Those are reasons instead for breathing, you know, because you have to, and some writers may even make that connection: "Writing is like breathing to me, just something that I have to do."

This too is metaphorical hogwash. Don't let us fool you.

We write for various sundry reasons that range from utter selfishness to a genuine desire to change the world with our words, but let's be honest -- most of us probably fall somewhere between those two extremes. And trust me on this, rarely will you hear one of us be completely honest with you about why we actually do the work of writing (and make no mistake, it IS work, unlike breathing).

But enough stalling... Why do I write?

To some degree I write because I enjoy the writing itself. I love the play of words against and with other words. I love the sounds clicking or "smoothing" together to give my sentences a certain feeling or mood.

I also write to some degree because I enjoy the act of getting the stories out of my head and onto the paper, loving the time spent with my characters, and giving them a sort of live where there was nothing there previously.

But if I'm honest, I write to have written. If you're a fellow writer, that will make perfect sense. If you're not, you may think I just screwed up my grammar. I write because I'm proud of having a body of finished work that I can look back on. It's not about bragging (although sometimes I do brag about it). It's not about the money (Lord knows it's not about the money.) Nor is it about proving I'm a "real" writer.

For me, I write to have published a body of work that stays behind me and that I can look back on and feel proud of and know that in some small way to some readers, I mattered. My time here wasn't just wrapped up in a microcosm of one small life. It affected someone else. I may never know who and I may never know how, but the work was there, and the work was read, and someone had a reaction to it -- good or bad.