This is repub and modest edit of a post made April, 2011. I still think this is true.
I just read another “Why Do I Write?” article. This one was in Publisher’s Weekly by an author I don’t know, but she’s more successful than I am. She’s published in PW, and that is more than I can say. I see these articles frequently; I’ve even written a couple, and the content is the same, no matter who the author is.
Here’s my problem with “Why I Write” articles: They usually boil down to the author making three distinct points, and two of them aren’t true. Rather than attack other writers, I’ll pick apart my own Why I Write pieces, not anyone else’s. Still, if you’ve ever done one of these – and if you write, you probably have – step back from yourself and take a long, hard look at it. Every one of these pieces is exactly like masturbating in public. It felt good at the time, but now you are ashamed. Or should be.
Point 1: I love reading and writing. This one is true. And to this, I say, “Duh.”
It’s a given. It’s like a pitcher saying he loves baseball. Write, edit, tweak and rewrite. It’s hard, often thankless work and hard work does not mean you are good. Rejection by publishers and agents is a brutal constant, yet writers submit and submit and submit, and the rejection letters pile up. Our words are our blood, sweat, and tears, and they are turned down repeatedly. We keep at it despite the adversity, so it goes without saying that writers are in love with the written medium. Duh.
Point 2: I write only for myself. To this, I say, “Shenanigans.”
Note that this is not the same as saying, “I write stories I would like to read.”
Saying “I write only for myself,” is a defense. It’s like saying, “I don’t care what anyone thinks, because I wrote this just for me, anyway.”
This way, if someone doesn’t like the story, there is an emotional pillow to fall on. If a writer really wrote only for himself, he would never share his work with others. He would never submit it and certainly never put up with the demoralization that goes along with the rejections or likewise, experience the elation on those times work is accepted or gets accolades.
The truth?: I have something to say and I want someone to hear it. No person who has something to say is content to say it to an empty room. I write to be read, and anything I write is dead until a reader breathes life into it. Period.
Point 3: I’m so special because I write. The words are not said exactly like that but it’s what they mean, and to this I say, “Not really.”
People could view this the same as, “I’m special because I drive a car and dress myself.” Every literate person can write, and of those, about 69% think they could write a book.
Any literate person could write a book. They just don’t and that alone might place them higher on the evolutionary scale than those of us who try.
As writers, we put our thoughts, ideas, and feelings out there for scrutiny. It’s risky and we do it anyway. We are 2% of that 69% that do write. That’s approximately the same percentage of people that have some level of retardation or are otherwise mentally challenged. Who is to say that we are not them? How could we tell if we were?
I look at my “successes” as a writer – the times I have been published. Some of them don’t even give me a copy of the publication my work appears in. Is that special? I can’t really say it is.
It’s just stepping stones to where I want to be. All of it is stepping stones and exercises. Eyes ahead, I continue to climb, and there is nothing exceptional about putting one foot in front of the other, but it’s the only way I know how to move forward, and so I go.
What matters is that you do write. You are a writing juggernaut that does not stop for anything and one day, if you are good enough, you will be recognized for it. Until then, no one cares why you write.
If you disagree with anything written here, well, that’s okay.
I’m very special, love reading and writing, and I wrote this only for myself, anyway.