Why do writers write?

writer cartoon

Writers tend to be introspective. They analyse themselves and others.

Writing has much in common with many other creative forms – art, dance, drama, music – and probably many of the same motivations. It is something that I have thought about a lot.

I have often said to people that I enjoy writing as much as reading. That is true. Though reading does not leave you with the same feelings of depression, inadequacies and frustration. You sit there eagerly pouring out your words in some kind of inner reverie, connected (when you get in the mode) to some inner flow. The ideas tumble after each other, the words slip effortlessly into place and you frantically try to keep up. It is like some great endorphin rush. You are certain that it is the best thing you have ever done – pure, imaginative and flowing straight from some core of creativity.

Then in the cool light of distance you reread your words and the mediocrity slaps you in the face. You are brought up short.

Your friends (if you have any left after the thousands of hours spent at the keyboard) find you dull and tedious. All you ever want to talk about is your writing. They accuse you of being selfish and self-centred.

What they are really saying is that you are unsuccessful and flawed. In truth you are desperate for objectivity so that you can progress. To them the typos and repetitive words scream out. Yet your own subjectivity hides those things from you. Their condescension and patronising only serves to rub in the salt.

The result is dispiriting and saps your energy and desire.

You are left wondering why you bother.

Any cursory look through the internet reveals a million desperate writers all vying for attention and pulling every trick they can think of to get noticed.

So why do I do it?

a. Fame and fortune – I am sure a lot of writers create their novels with dreams of it becoming a best-seller. The years of rejection slips (or no answers) quickly puts pay to any notion of that. I never started writing to make a fortune. I would have loved to have made a meagre living though.

b. To be noticed – notoriety is a big draw. We all want to be noticed, flattered and praised. It cannot be denied. Perhaps writers, or indeed all creative people, have a personality flaw that requires more attention than most?

c. For the self-satisfaction of creating – there is nothing quite so pleasing as to produce something in which you feel satisfied. There is nothing more satisfying that being in the zone when the words are flowing and the mind is utterly focussed. It is only later when you realise that nobody else quite appreciates your wonderful creation in quite the same way that the reality hits home.

d. To communicate – if you have something to say, some passion, some cause, some ideas and you have a pressing need to explain them, to get other people to see, to make a difference and change the world.

e. To impress – perhaps that is similar to being noticed? To have status and appeal because of your talent. To be attractive and have admirers. I’m sure that is the main motivation of most young Rock Musicians and probably other creative people too.

f. To create an art-form and leave a legacy that gives you immortality.

g. To express yourself and understand. A catharsis? A magnifying glass? A way of understanding life and the universe we inhabit?

I suspect that it is all of these and a lot more; all mixed in a heady cocktail in which various spirits rise to the surface at different times.

Unfortunately writing, unlike art, music and drama, requires a lot of your audience. Whereas you can stand in front of a canvas or listen to a few bars and decide whether you have affinity sufficient to proceed, with writing it takes considerably longer and a great deal of effort. A novel requires time. It is no good thrusting a thick book into someone’s hand and asking them what they think?

I am a writer. I have a large body of work. I have a number of rejection slips, a blog and a small number of followers, believers and consumers.

I am left with the doubts, despondency and frustrations to dampen my ardour as I continue to wonder why.

Yesterday I published my 24th book to rapturous silence. Would I write if hopelessly marooned on a desert island? – I am certain I would!

Perhaps it would even remove some of pressures.