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Why Write?


Gordon Rowlinson

Creative writing is an odd and rather unrewarding endeavor. Why do it? To write an entertaining and effective story, requires much time and effort. After you complete a story, you have to proof read it. After it is perfect, it is necessary to market it. Then when you proudly send the little masterpiece that you have poured your heart and soul into out to some magazine for publishing, it usually is rejected. Why do it? Why write?

George Orwell once said that one motivation for writing is sheer egoism. He thought people write to be talked about and remembered after death. This doesn't appear to be a major motivation to most writers as most writers don't achieve anything resembling fame. The writing world is very competitive as there are no barriers to entry to the field. All you need is a computer and a printer and you can be a writer.

Can money be a reason to write? That seems unlikely as there is very little money in writing. Every writer seems to have what I call 'the Amy Tan dream.' Amy Tan's first novelThe Joy Luck Club was accepted on the first try and she went on to a very successful writing carrier. We all want our little creations to be accepted on the first try and profound success to follow. In reality, for the most part, writing is an unprofitable undertaking. Even if someone pays you for a story, the amount of time put into creating the thing will probably place the project far below the minimum wage level.

Assuming you are a non-professional writer, should you consider money as the motivation for our writing? In a larger sense, should we consider money for all of our leisure time pursuits? We dedicate most of our lives to making money. In our spare times, shouldn't we allow ourselves to be non-money motivated? I once had a friend in Connecticut who was showing me his house. He had a basement that resembled a motorcycle junk yard with motorcycle parts strewn throughout the room. It looked like a motorcycle serial killer had murdered several motorcycles and thrown all the dismembered parts randomly around the room. He sheepishly admitted, “maybe I should put one of the bikes together and sell it.” However after I thought about it, I realized that whatever he was doing in his basement—repairing a motorcycle or building a motorcycle—was great fun to him. Therefore he shouldn't let the profit/loss motivation into his decision process. Perhaps when we notice a friend or neighbor doing something very unprofitable in their spare time, we should assume that they are having great fun.

Several professional writers have offered introspective and very illuminating looks into their motivations.

You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you've got something to say.” F Scott Fitzgerald

Those of us who write do it because there are stories inside us burning to get out. Writing is essential to our well-being.” Judy Blume

Science fiction is the fiction of ideas. Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I'm borrowing energy from the ideas themselves.“ Ray Bradbury

The best thing about writing fiction is the moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it's about and why you're doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising...and it's magic and wonderful and strange.” Neil Gaiman

Read those motivation descriptions again. I think most of the writers on this site will admit to a feeling of having “something something to say” and a “story burning to get out” when we initially start a story. I think most of the writers on this site will admit to a feeling of excitement in the creative process of writing the story and a feeling of being “both the creator and the audience.” I think most of the writers on this site have had the “magic and wonderful and strange” experience of a story catching fire and coming to life.

Why write? Because we writers cannot stop. Your comments below are welcome.


2017-02-01 11:41:24
At this moment, February 1st 3 PM, there are no stories on the site. It seems to be an answer to your question...but I'm sure it is merely an oversight on the editor's part. Md

2017-02-01 10:07:13
micheledutcher - The most exciting times that I've experienced as a writer was when the characters and story lines began to write themselves. For instance, I was writing a scifi novel and I was describing the scene around one character and then I 'looked around' the spacebar and clear as day - there was another character in the book. I remember saying to myself, "Now I get it! That's where they first met!" Pretty cool. I'm more of an editor now, reading other people's work, but I really enjoyed writing. If I could find a character in real life, I could write a story.

2017-02-01 04:26:11
Ironspider - I enjoy reading and from when I could wield a pencil started writing stories. I just enjoy writing and, as science fiction, fantasy and horror are my preferred genres, that's what I like to write. I doubt there's anything deep and meaningful behind it - I rarely put any moral message into the narrative - it's just a childish urge I've carried with me into adult life.

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