Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Writing With Purpose: Why Do You Write?

If somebody asks you why you write, you’re supposed to say “why do you think I have a choice?” or something equally witty that conveys everything it means to be a writer while actually not saying anything at all. As I’ve mentioned before, you have a choice. You always have a choice, even if it feels like you wouldn’t be able to function if you didn’t get to write regularly. So take the time to ask yourself that question and leave off the automatic responses that removes your agency and autonomy.

Why do you write?

What’s your purpose?

Do you want to write to make money? That’s perfectly fine. People say if you want to write to make money, you’ll always be poor, but that’s not true. I think in reality it’s about discouraging the frightful notion that writing is a "job", a profession like any other. And like any other profession, you can make the conscious choice to enter the field and make a living at it. It’s not easy to make money as a writer if you’re not a very good writer, and honestly, a lot of people aren’t. But it’s not easy to make money as a lawyer if you’re not a very good lawyer. It’s not easy to make money as a taxi driver if you’re not a very good driver. A waitress who loathes people and can’t summon a smile probably won’t get many tips. “I write because it’s my job” is a perfectly acceptable and reasonable thing to say. Some days that’s the only reason I write.

Do you write because you have something to say? Lots of people do. Each one of us can offer a unique perspective on a shared experience, and everybody has something to say. I spend a lot of time convincing my students of that because they often don’t think they have anything significant to add. But it’s not true. What you bring to the table is a special set of circumstances, experiences, and expectations that shape the lens you use to view the world. So if you have something to say, for God’s sake, say it! Start writing and never stop!

Do you write because you hear voices? Me, too. I hear them all the time. There are people in my head, and every single one of them has a story, and they all think I should be the one who writes it down. I could ignore them and refuse to write it but they’ll still be there either way. I might as well try to give them a voice if that’s what they want.

Do you write because you’re bored? I used to spend hours and hours making up stories as a child because I had nothing better to do. Now I spend hours and hours making up stories and writing them down and I’m rarely bored.

Do you write for yourself? Now, answer that honestly. If you’re published, or hope to be published, the answer is a little more complicated. You always have to consider your audience, what they expect, what they want, and what they’re willing to pay for. Sometimes your desires are in line with the audience’s, and everything is golden. If you’re truly writing for yourself and for no other, publishing wouldn’t make a difference to you. In fact, you wouldn’t want to be published at all. If you want to be published, you have to change your entire view of the world. You’re no longer writing for yourself alone, you’re writing for the financial benefit of a publisher. So you’d better be damned good and ready to know the difference.

Why do you write? Dig a little deeper. Find your real purpose.

Image thanks to SarahWynne on

1 comment:

  1. I write not for me, but for those who have inspired me through out my life and helped to develope my love of the written word