Why Write?

“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a POLITICAL purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.”

-George Orwell, Why I Write

Among all of the questions writers chew over and recycle, the one I keep coming back to both in my own mind and in the works of other writers is this: “Why do I write?”

Here I am reading at about age 5 or 6...good preparation for becoming a writer.

Here I am reading at about age 5 or 6…good preparation for becoming a writer.

While plagued with writer’s block or struggling to rub two coins together, we really do have to wonder why we do it to ourselves. Why don’t we just go and get a real job?

Why, indeed.

Yet, when things are going well and we are in the zone and each and every one of our senses is fully activated and alive and the most amazing stuff just flows onto the page and we actually resolve some of those inner conundrums and make real progress then we know. We know why we put ourselves through it.

Reciting my poetry at the Shakespeare Bookshop in Paris in July, 1992. I had a little black book with my poems in.

Reciting my poetry at the Shakespeare Bookshop in Paris in July, 1992. I had a little black book with my poems in.

There is no more thrilling adventure than the creative journey. Whether it is expressed in words, paint, photography, fabric etc; the creative journey is incredibly thrilling and stretches our imagination, knowledge and often even our physical body beyond what we ever thought possible. It is pure electricity.

Writing poetry at the Hotel Henri IV, Paris July 1992. Love this photo!

Writing poetry at the Hotel Henri IV, Paris July 1992. Love this photo!

So why do I write?

I write because I am a writer. Writing is what I do. For me, writing is like breathing. I’ve been doing it seriously since I was a teenager reciting dreadful poetry about romantic rejection on the bus after school. Indeed, since I was 11 years old and Mum taught me how to spell enthusiastic and gave me my Roget’s Thesaurus. I knew, even way back then, that I wanted to be a writer! I knew who I was.

Writing in my journal while waiting to see my rheumatologist. What are the results going to be? Jan 2014.

Writing in my journal while waiting to see my rheumatologist. What are the results going to be? Jan 2014.

However, pursuing that further, why is writing like breathing for me when for someone else, it’s more like a heart attack and they’d struggle to write more than a paragraph in a life time? What determines that distinction? What makes me write and write and write. Indeed, to keep writing long after my physical body has all but fallen asleep just to get the story out? Yet, that someone else can live quite happily without ever writing a word.

Foot Writer

Foot Writer- all pose, of course!

But out of where? My head? My heart? My soul? Moreover, is it even my story to tell or does it belong to the muse? God? Where are all these ideas coming from?

Isn’t that one of our eternal conundrums and part of the writer’s quest? !!

Writing in my journal at Palm Beach yesterday. I was so focused on the view I didn't even notice the DVD player on the table. I was in the zone.

Writing in my journal at Palm Beach yesterday. I was so focused on the view I didn’t even notice the DVD player on the table. I was in the zone.

Moving on a little further, is there a distinction between someone who writes privately for themselves and those writers who see writing is as a vocation and for them, if they don’t publish, they shall surely perish?

Personally, I do believe that writing with a view to publication is a different ball game and I guess this is why I am getting to  with this title. Why jump through hoops and push yourself beyond survival in the same way a marathon runner  pushes their mind, body and spirit beyond breaking point with the faith (or is it simply hope) of reaching the finish line. For writers, financial security is usually a pipe dream and we somehow survive on thin air and relationships with our nearest and dearest can become severely strained as our focus fixates on the laptop, word count and the intricacies of fictional characters instead of those we say we love. After all, writing usually demands silence or at least a sense of peace and that really doesn’t sit well with physical human interaction.

What follows is a big of a debate: Why write: the case against and Why Write: the Affirmative. I’d love to generate a bit a discussion happening so please comment, debate, disagree and provide links to relevant posts

This has been W for Why Write for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

xx Rowena

21 thoughts on “Why Write?

  1. Ula

    I write for the same reasons as you, and to tell you honestly I can’t imagine living a different way. That constant need to write is addictive. What causes that? What is the deeper why? That’s tough to answer. For me, I believe it to be my calling. It is why I am here. But why? I believe my soul chose to pursue this calling in this lifetime to learn something, teach something, and maybe change something. Those explanations work for me. They may not for others.

    Writing is writing, no matter what the reason. The best writing is authentic, honest (in some way about something), has emotion and makes the reader feel something. I think that there is no difference between writing for publication and writing and just putting it in a drawer. Both can be satisfying, but both can be inauthentic. The writer writing for publication could be just pandering to others’ tastes, and in that they are being inauthentic. The writer writing in secret is hiding his gift when he should be sharing it, even if it isn’t for profit.

    I think when we write, we always think of someone reading it one day. I would like to meet a writer who will honestly say they want no one to read their work. We all want to our work to be read, even if it is only one person.

  2. merrildsmith

    Hi Rowena! Love the photos. Just a quick response. . .because I’m just taking a break–from writing, of course (actually reviewing my copyedited manuscript).:) I think people who really want to write do so whether it will be published or not, but you are correct in saying that writing for publication is different. It depends on the project though. If you are writing a non-fiction work, for example, and you have a contract, there are certain guidelines that are set out in the contract, so your writing must conform to those specifications. Similarly, if you are writing fiction, but you are under contract or have made some commitment to write a particular book or in a particular genre there are constraints. If you are writing something with the hope that it will be published some day, but with no constraints on what you are writing, then perhaps it’s a different type of writing. Blogging is also a different type of writing, but there are many types of blogs, as you know.

  3. Minuscule Moments

    I write because it is there, inside of me and it is my duty to learn the craft as best I can and then if my work feels good enough I will share it. Im not dreaming of the big time I dream of telling stories and that is all that matters to me. Thanks Rowena for sharing your writing life. I adore the pictures of you in Paris. I journaled the whole two years I was overseas, a mugs writer back then and yet I see where my passion turned into something more.

  4. TanGental

    First up that picture of you on the railing is so evocative; you can smell the gauloises. Why write? I started because I wanted to see if I could write a novel length piece of work that told a coherent story. I didn’t feel compelled in any sense. It was a bit like undertaking any challenge that seems dauntingly long. The marathon I suppose. I wrote one and had an idea for a second and wondered if I had the motivation. I did. Somewhere at this point I felt pleased I had a creative hobby; I’m surrounded by creative types and I’ve always been the plodder, the hod carrier. Here was something no one in my family had undertaken. It also generated comment along the lines of ‘I could never…’ and ‘I don’t know how..’ I love flattery. I tried poetry and realised that it only works if I really feel engaged with the subject matter. I can grind out words in a first draft if I have to, knowing I will come back to work them into shape. After eight years and several courses to improve my technique, I cannot imagine not writing. But it has been a slow burner of a love affair.

  5. Joanne Corey

    Thank you for the post. I write for several different reasons. I write commentary on environmental issues to help educate and to do my part for the climate and earth. I write personal correspondence to share thoughts and closeness with people who I don’t get to see and talk to in person often enough. I write poetry because there are certain feelings and observations that only seem to be expressed by metaphor. I write my blog to clarify my own thoughts and share them with whomever they attract. For me, there is an element of sharing and service in writing which others prefer to fulfill through speaking or action. Perhaps writing is better for me because of my natural introversion and because I often need time to work out my thoughts, which is easier to do in writing than in speaking.

  6. Joanne Corey

    Reblogged this on Top of JC's Mind and commented:
    Rowena has written a great post about “Why write?” and has asked for comments and debate. I appreciated the opportunity to read about her relationship with writing and reflect on my own reasons.

    My comment: Thank you for the post. I write for several different reasons. I write commentary on environmental issues to help educate and to do my part for the climate and earth. I write personal correspondence to share thoughts and closeness with people who I don’t get to see and talk to in person often enough. I write poetry because there are certain feelings and observations that only seem to be expressed by metaphor. I write my blog to clarify my own thoughts and share them with whomever they attract. For me, there is an element of sharing and service in writing which others prefer to fulfill through speaking or action. Perhaps writing is better for me because of my natural introversion and because I often need time to work out my thoughts, which is easier to do in writing than in speaking.

    Hop over to Rowena’s blog and join in the discussion!

  7. roweeee Post author

    Thank you so much for the reblog and your well-thoughtout response. How you read: “Why I Write” by George Orwell. He stated that political motivations produced his best work. I write much of my work to help people and I do much of my reading to, in a sense, help myself. I am quite extroverted myself but there’s still so much I find easier to put on paper. I really appreciate the blogging community and the friends I’ve made. We’ve been able to connect in quite a personal way.

  8. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Geoff. I don’t know how I did it but I did try a few of those Galoises…a real canceer stick if ever I’ve tried one. I look at that photo now and remember how I lacked self-esteem etc and like I’ve been saying about my son who had a guitar audition today, if only you could put an old head on young shoulders. .
    So good you discovered writing. I can relate to being the family outsider as I come from a family of musicians and i didn’t even listen to music before I took up the violin 3 years ago. Now, I’m playing in an ensemble.
    My Dad has done his Masters in Creative Writing, after having an MBA and he’s also done many course since then including an Arts Degree and a hypnotherapy course. He’s an avid reader and has always wanted to write a novel. However, he ended up getting writer’s block and then took up sailing. I hope he gets back to it.

  9. roweeee Post author

    I agree with what you say about telling stories and sharing stories. I have been trying to shorten my posts but for me a lot of these stories need the twists and turns, which add the length.
    I also journaled while I was overseas for 8 months in Europe. I have these journals piled up near my desk to write some posts. I’m looking forward to revisiting them xx Rowena

  10. roweeee Post author

    Thank you Ula for adding so much to the discussion. Wish we could all be sitting in a cafe somewhere over a cappucino and sharing ideas..a Live Writers Society. I really love blogging, which for me is very authentic. I write straight from the heart. You can compromise that in the quest for publication but then for some, it also boils down to needing to eat. I certainly want my work to be read and have been incredibly frustrated having it all stuck inside my computer.

  11. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Merril. I was interested to read your insights into the requirements for publication. It’s a whole world I haven’t delved into. Well done for having a manuscript at such a level. Keep me posted. xx Rowena

  12. merrildsmith

    I’ve done several books. Some requirements are the same, and some different, and of course, publishers all vary, too. Also, if you’re doing a book with contributors, then each one has to sign a contract.
    But if you entered a writing contest or your blog challenge, there are still some sorts of rules.

  13. roweeee Post author

    Well done. My aunt, Dr Anna Haebich, has published quite a few books…mostly academic texts but some have been ground breaking, especially Broken Circles, the national history of the stolen generation, Aboriginal children who were stolen from their families and often put into institutionalised care. Very proud of my aunt.

  14. Joanne Corey

    It is amazing how blogging connects people from all over the world. Words are very powerful, as are images, although I’m not very good with those personally.

  15. Eli Pacheco

    I’d say its the same juice that pushes another to get on a bike and ride 80 miles at dawn. Or to take their vision to a canvas or blueprint. I’ve often said my writing is like a sneeze, in that if I try to hold it in, I’m just going to hurt something.

    I write it, hope it connects somewhere, somehow. It’s like the message in a bottle. You write it to write it, but you also hope someone will read and respond. If I didn’t write, it’d be like a shark that stopped swimming. Why stick around in the ocean, then?

  16. kcg1974

    I am sooo far behind in reading posts, Roweena. Luckily, I happened to catch this today which is absolutely wonderful. Love, love, love the message and photographs. Truth, honesty and conviction from you about passion in life together with the meaning of it all. Thank you, Roweena.

  17. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Kim. So many of us are struggling to keep up but real life is also important and spending time with the people we love….especially your precious twin grandchildren. Those early years can be mixed as a parent nbut pure joy for the grandparents!! xx Ro

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