Why we write

write-2When people ask me why I write fiction, as sometimes they do, I’m kind of at a loss. So full of words usually I find I have none.

So I have a stock response which is to say that I don’t know why I write except that I feel compelled to. I don’t necessarily enjoy writing so much as I find I need to do it, because it’s part of me.

So that deflects the question but doesn’t really answer it.

Some people I suppose would say they write because of the power of the things they have to say – the weight of the message they have inside them is so great they feel a responsibility to make it public. This would cover some non-fiction authors I think, plus all those who write out of conviction from political polemicists to religious pamphleteers.
vintage-technology-keyboard-oldOthers would say they write for money. They say this bluntly as if there could be no other worthwhile reason to put in the work. They challenge you to rock their faith in the Dollar or the Euro or the Pound. I used to be one of the write for money people I suppose, still am in my day job in PR.

As a print journalist for many years I wrote on topics people paid me to write on. I suppose that’s why, with my fiction, I tend to please myself rather than work on the things big publishers seem to go for such as by the numbers crime thrillers or soap operas in which single mums and their children have adventures in exotic locations. I don’t like the idea of writing to a formula even though I respect the professionalism of those who do so.

I do think though that it helps to have a professional attitude to your writing, to think of it as a product as well as some outpouring of emotional baggage. Otherwise you might end up with self-indulgent nonsense which you consider your gift to the world. The world will decide whether your writing is a gift worth accepting or not.

So why do I write? Because I always have and always will. Because it’s my thing. Oh I admit it, I don’t really know.

I don’t do it because it makes me happy, though maybe it makes me less sad.

Anais Nin said “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

So maybe that’s why I do it, to try to make more sense of life in the same way our dreams do for us while we sleep, to untangle it and put it in some kind of order.

So much of what I write bears scant resemblance to my own life but all the information I process in my writing comes from somewhere, from what I see or hear or read. I experience it and then I make over those experiences afresh, I give them a new set of clothes.

That’s as near as I can get to why I write – what about you? Why do you write? Why do you read?


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4 thoughts on “Why we write”

  1. I think my answer would be like yours, Chris. I have always written. I’ve been paid most of my life to write for work. Now I’m paid to teach people how to write instead. But I’ve written things for myself for decades now although it was only ten years ago that I thought of writing and publishing a book! I need to do it in the same way as I need to go for a walk. I don’t always want to, but I always feel better when I do it!

  2. I think one reason I write is to try and make sense of the life we live in. I think for me it’s a way of trying to understand perspectives and it’s a way of growing and evolving into a better human being. I love the quote by Anaїs Nin. That resonates. Thanks for your post. 🙂

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