“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?”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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? !!
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.