View Full Version : Why do you write?
March 5th, 2004, 08:50 AM
I was perusing old threads and I found one that caught my interest:
What are your ambitions (http://www.sffworld.org/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=2774)
I though it would be interesting to start a new thread, but I'm not so anxious to see what you hope to one day receive from writing. I'm more curious about why do you sit there and write now? What Iíd like to see (and you donít have to do this) is to treat this simple question as if youíve just been asked to write an article for a local news agent about why amateur writers write. Being an article, shoot for 500 words or more. Please take your time and collect your thoughts on this one. We all know the industry is tough, big royalties are a dream for 99% of us and fame may never find any of us. Very few on this board have been published and from those Iíve talked to personally, itís been a very limited success.
Some things to take with you as you answer the main question: So why persist in writing? What drives you? What keeps you going at 2 a.m. when all normal people have gone to bed? What do you get when you finish writing a story? How do you persevere through rejection after rejection? Or if youíve been published, what keeps you writing when sales are down and the dream has yet to materialize?
I will be posting my own response to this question later today (sorry I didnít do it at the time of posting). Again, Iím looking for an article length response vs. ďI love itĒ responses. If we didnít love writing we wouldnít be doing it in the first place. But what about it do you love. Expand as much as you can. Reach deep down and letís see just how much in common (or different) each person really is in this forum.
Sorry this starts out long, I guess Iím just wanting to get to know all [anyone] whoíll respond to this post and what gas they use to drive their vehicle down one of the most difficult roads to success.
P.S. Hey Jacquin, I donít mean to steal any ideas you may have had to make this a writing exercise :)
March 5th, 2004, 01:49 PM
I promised you I'd have this today, here it is. Doing this was not as difficult as I thought it would be and for myself, quite enlightening. I hope others will follow suit and perhaps have some of the same self discovery that I just did. This took me about 3 hours to do. There was a lot of though about if I should edit any of this out, or leave the inner searching in. I've chosen to leave it all in despite how personal this was. Even though this is very personal, I feel the need to share it. I guess that's why I'm a writer, to share my words. Enjoy. :)
When I was a young boy I had a problem that is rather common. I was dyslexic. Spelling never came to me, not even easily. I was lucky to get Dís from my teachers and was constantly urged to improve. Combined with my wearing of glasses at a very young age and a severe lisp, I was teased quite often in school. It wasnít until 6th grade when I was finally put into a program to help with my speech impediment and my learning disability.
Over my junior high school years I was never allowed to live down just how poorly my performance was in the first six years of my schooling. Constant ridicule and torment were mine in abundance. My only escape was my mind and into books I had delved for years. Reading was slow and cumbersome but I finished many books. Over this period I internalized everything and kept everything deep within myself.
It wasnít until Iíd moved from that school and began a new life in a different school. Here I was introduced to the game Dungeons and Dragons. Though I read many fantasy novels in my attempt to escape my childhood, nothing could have prepared me for this. I took every gaming session in with excitement and passion. The mental images of our characters on their adventures live with me to this day running around my head on endless adventures.
You may ask, ďWhat does all that have to do with why you write?Ē My answer to you is simple: everything. Because I held in so many years of emotion, restrained myself from so many actions, held back all those times and didnít do so many things that others did, writing became an outlet; a way for me to express what was hidden deep inside. Every time I sit and type, much as Iím doing now, I feel as though Iím performing therapy on my inner child who still screams to be free. Iím allowing all those characters who occupy my mind a way to finally be free.
If I can produce a story that will bring a smile to somebodyís face, a tear to their eye, a laugh to their day, my time has been well spent. If I can dispel a personal demon or two, my time has been well spent. If I can inspire another child, teenager, or adult to do the same, my time has been well spent. These are the things that keep me awake at midnight, 1 a.m., 2 a.m. and sometimes through out a night.
When I finish writing a story, there is this incredible feeling of accomplishment. Iíve found that it doesnít matter if that story is a short story, flash fiction, chapter in a book, or finished novel, the feeling is just as powerful. I almost feel as though Iím drunk from the words having been poured from my brain and into the story and characters. The feeling is only topped by reaction to a particular story or even just a specific scene in that story. I love the feeling I get when I can mention just the title to one of my stories (Donít eat the Bread for example) and my friends whoíve read the story will wrinkle their faces in pain and look away. Thatís when I know that a story had the full impact.
Even beyond these are that rush when a letter or e-mail comes back with words like ĎÖwe would like to publish your workÖí and even though I love to write, I cannot put into words the exhilaration of the moment. Itís like my mind is on fire. There is no drug in the world that can do the same thing. Itís a high thatís hard to come down from. This is what drives me to be better at what I do; to hone my craft so that I can have this feeling again and again.
Having gone from a scared, taunted, hidden little boy who had difficulty reading and spelling to an accepted, well-rounded, and now published author gives me a fuller feeling than any paycheck can possibly cover. Itís knowing that Iíve done a job not for money, but personal accomplishment. Itís about success of the soul, not the bank account.
March 5th, 2004, 09:26 PM
Okay, here I go.
Writing is something I do. It's the process of writing that matters to me most, not the resulting text. I have very little to show. Often I don't keep what I've written: if it's typed into the computer, it may not get saved. If I scribble on paper, I may throw away the pages. If I formulate in my head, I may simply forget. Whether I keep a text or not depends primarily on the mood I'm in while writing, secondarily on the quality of the text.
Example: There's a poem scribbled onto the cover of my school text book (German). I still have that one, because I didn't throw away the text book. I remember writing the piece. German class: we were hearing about the impressionist/expressionist period in German literature, and I was bored, so I improvised a poem onto the cover of the German text book. It incorporated many of the elements of impressionistic poetry we were hearing about. This little episode really tells it all: (1) I write to pass time and drive away boredom, and (2) I write to "explore", in this case the writing techniques of German impressionistic poets.
Most of my writing is fragmentary: a few lines that could be part of a poem, a scene that might be part of a short story. There are lots of ideas and concepts in my head, some of them are with me for years. Most of them never make it to paper. (Where's the fun in writing when I know in advance what I'll be doing?)
However, occasionally, a poem or a story gets finished. And then what?
Assuming I keep them, they just sit in a drawer, on a hard or floppy disk, until I'm bored enough to re-read them. Occasionally, they get edited again.
It is always interesting to read stuff I wrote years ago. It isn't unusual for me to wonder, did I write this? Sometimes I see a phrase and I think, wow, I wish I could do that; and then I remember, hey, I did that. And then I think, hmm, I wish I could still do that.
So, in a way, the text becomes crystallized writing, a point of reference, something to tell me, I have changed since I've written that.
Example: Recently, I've found two versions of a story, one in German (my mother tongue), and one in English. I had completely forgotten that a German version exists. I'd always thought of the story as my first foray into writing stories in English. Turns out, I've translated myself. I haven't yet re-read the story. It'll be interesting to compare the versions.
On occasion, others have read what I have written.
When I was a kid (about seven/eight years old), I'd show my stories to my parents and sister as soon as I have written them.
Then, there was a period - shortly after entering grammar school - when life was tough and I was not. I was contemplating suicide and never kept anything I wrote. I hated the thought that others might read it.
During my time in a commercial college I satisfied my writing urge by submitting "experimental homeworks" in German and English; explaining the bill of exchange in fairy tale language; writing an essay that consists of one humonguos sentence... Things like that.
After graduating, I wrote lots of short stories; as well as a few chapters of a "novel" (which had so many intersecting plot lines that would combine SF, F, horror, mystery, and even mainstream, plus a frame that was a pretty complicated plot line in itself, that I simply gave up). I collected the better stories in a folder for others to read and hid the rest away, then forgot where (I still keep finding things...). That was me playing at being an author. I never submitted anything, but if I had it would have been then.
Next was compulsory military service; I hardly wrote anything, then. However, I kept telling people weird things ("there's a dead squid right outside the barracks, you'd better remove it before the Lieutennant sees it."). I was joking. Not everybody realized that, though. I had a pretty strange reputation...
Then there was university (Sociology, English literature and linguistics). Writing term papers pretty much satisfied my writing urge. In the course of a poetry translation workshop, translations of two poems from English into German (with accompaning English article) have been published in a Polish university mag (one of those translations has been reprinted in an Austrian lit mag): This is my only publication to date, and this is not due to my own effort.
And now here I am. Online writing/submitting is the current phase I'm in. Strangers reading and commenting on what I've written; I like that a lot. It's fun to see what people make of my scribblings.
Actually, that sums up my motivation of having others read my stuff pretty nicely: It's fun to see what they make of it. Like forcing a teacher to grade an experimental homework...
What it boils down to
I write, because that's something I do. It's a way to pass time, a way to explore the world, a way to explore myself. In the process, a text is produced; something that can be read by others, as well as by a future "me". And because I write, I have to deal with the Trinity of Writing: the Writer, the Text, and the Reader. How I think of them changes, and I might leave them behind for a while, but I'll always come back.... (Oy, pathos... It's time to stop for tonight.)
March 6th, 2004, 12:15 PM
I fully intend to do this, it'll take me a little while though as I'm unfeasably lazy and currently consoling myself about the rugby.
In the mean time though here is a letter I wrote myself some time ago. Every time I wonder why the hell I put myself through this I read it and it reminds me why I write...
Iím writing this to try and explain why it is I want to be a writer.
Itís not an easy thing to put into words but I know I do want it. Iíve wanted it since I was a child, Itís kind of a romantic thing, the picture in my head of me sat at a desk in a quiet sunlit room, itís either very early or very late, Iím not sure which but the sun is low and the light is warm and golden, I have a coffee steaming gently on the side of the desk and amongst the books on the shelves to my side are a number written by me.
Thatís not the only reason though, letís be honest Iíd like to have Stephen Kingís money. Well actually Iíd like to have my own but you get the picture.
Lots of people know I write, they tend to write too, Iíd love to be the one in the group who is the published one, or at least not the only one that isnítÖ Iíd love to have my name on a plaque on the wall of a pub like the Inklings.
I suppose on top of that I would just love to see my name in print, probably the only way Iím going to leave something behind of me once I go, there is Meg but she is Meg, not just a bit of me.
I canít think of any other reasons at the moment, but I will add to this if and when I come up with anything.
Donít worry about it, just have fun writing.
First Addition: Can you imagine listening to someone tell you how good a book was only to be able to turn round and say, yeah, I wrote that? Coooooooooooool! :D
J (or Oz...)
March 6th, 2004, 01:33 PM
Why do I write? I've yearned to see my name in print for so long that it's difficult to answer that question. There are several reasons I write, and they all blend together...
But, I can pinpoint the exact moment I decided that my life wouldn't be complete until I was a published writer: I was 12, and I found an old copy of Jane Eyre in my mom's room that she had read in highschool. I devoured the book, my first "adult" novel, and was left dumbfounded after turning the last page. What excitement! What characters! What pathos! The book truly moved me, and from that moment I decided that I desperately wanted to do for other people what that book had done for me. I wanted to create fascinating fictional worlds that could draw readers in, make them forget their own boring lives, and touch them emotionally.
That was really the main reason I decided to be a writer. I wanted to give to others the enjoyment that so many good writers have given to me. And it's still the main reason I write. I get a thrill thinking that somebody will someday read my words and find them funny, or exhilirating, or sad, or that someone will fall in love with one of my characters as much as I have.
But of course my writing is not entirely philanthropic in nature. Although I didn't even consider money when I was young, now that I'm trying to raise a family I really would love to make a few bucks off my stories. Really love it. Not only because I could use the money, but because what's more gratifying in life than getting paid for what you love to do? It's like getting paid just to be you. What an ego boost that would be. :)
So I write to give back, and I write in hopes of receiving. I also write because it's psychologically satisfying. Many writers and other artists are, I believe, somewhat reclusive, and our art is a way to express those things we never say to others. I was very shy as a child, I had few friends, and my parents weren't the type to encourage sharing of feelings. They were rather harsh, in fact. As a result, I grew up with all kinds of junk bottled up inside...for a time I found solace in music. I would play tragic-sounding, mournful tunes on the piano and feel better. It was a way of getting my negative feelings out.
After a while I turned to writing poetry (the horrible teenage kind), sketching in charcoal, and eventually to writing stories. Not everything that happens in my stories is sad or tragic, but I'll admit the overall tone of my writing is very serious. And a lot of sad things do happen to my characters. But this type of writing is satisfying for me. It allows me to express my deepest feelings, my deepest beliefs about the way the world operates, my deepest fears. It's difficult for me to pinpoint how this is satsifying but I know that it is. I suppose in a way I'm sharing my feelings with others--my potential readers--in a way that I couldn't growing up.
So then, I suppose I write equally for others and for myself. The more I write, the more I want to write, and the more I realize that I truly am a writer, right to the core of my soul. I've been interested briefly in other careers, but there's nothing that has ever even come close in terms of sheer desire. It's what I want to do. And what I will do.
March 6th, 2004, 02:14 PM
Originally posted by Miriamele
Many writers and other artists are, I believe, somewhat reclusive, and our art is a way to express those things we never say to others. I was very shy as a child, I had few friends, and my parents weren't the type to encourage sharing of feelings. They were rather harsh, in fact. As a result, I grew up with all kinds of junk bottled up inside...for a time I found solace in music. I would play tragic-sounding, mournful tunes on the piano and feel better. It was a way of getting my negative feelings out.
You don't know just how much I can relate to that. Actually, for emotional relieve it's still the piano, for me. Writing is the way I make sense of my emotions.
When it comes to sharing, writing is the way to go for me. Probably, because I am a lousy piano player. ;)
March 6th, 2004, 03:34 PM
The other day I was watching a program on Samurai. A reporter was talking to a sword smith and asking him how he could sit in a forge and spend weeks, sometimes months, working on a single blade. The man looked at the camera and shrugged, "My swords are my existence; they're the proof that I'm alive."
I don't know what possessed me to write my first short story (much less my first novel). I was never very good at English. I was in all honors classes except for... well, you know. I loved comic books and started playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was eleven (and stopped trying to kill the other party members when I was forteen. Okay, sixteen). In college I started writing for the school paper after meeting the editor. It sounded like an easy way to pick up a little money. After two years they made me an associate editor and I still had no intention of ever writing for fun.
A voracious reader, something strange happened a few years ago. I ran out of books to read. You see my great loves were postapocolyptics and cyberpunk with an action bent and I realized that there just weren't enough out there to keep me in ink for the rest of my life. To make matters worse some of the material that was out there was just awful. Something had to be done!
I've come to believe that every project has a point of no return. It may be halfway, after writing the outline, even while still doing research, but at a certain point a creation begins to look like you and starts to call out, no, to demand that you finish your creation, prove that you're alive. It's like carrying a bucket in your arms while a steady drip tries to slowly fill the pale no matter where you go. It gets heavier with time. My wife will never understand this. She wonders why I get out of sorts when I haven't been able to write in three days. It's the book. It's the stinking book!
After my first it was all over. You're right. Completion is an amazing feeling. I couldn't stop now if I wanted to. My wife just walked in and handed me another rejection letter by the way. It hurts. It won't stop me. The ideas come now whether I bid them or not. I'll start another project soon and at some point I'll pick up the bucket. And the water will start to drip.
March 6th, 2004, 03:55 PM
Great replies, so far, one and all. I'm glad I started this thread. I look forward to reading more.
Well met, Ironchef Texmex. I find your bucket and water comparison very interesting. In fact, I've just finished reading Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing and he uses something very similar.
He was sent to the rain barrel to fetch a ladle of water. The more water he ladled out, the more water would flow into the barrel. So he continued to take more and more out, but the water flowed faster and faster. He dropped the ladel and picked up a bucket and pulled the water out in buckets, but the water flowed even faster.
I've found this to be the case as well. The faster I write short stories (or chapters in a book) the faster the ideas come until it's difficult to find the time to sit down and write them all. But I wouldn't want it any other way.
And I'm the same, after two or three days without writing, look out, something is brewing beneath the surface waiting to get out.
March 8th, 2004, 06:22 AM
I was very tempted to read the other posts before writing my own, but I am being very disciplined for a change, as I want to see what comes out first... I will go back and read the other posts when I have finished mine.
Friends and family if asked, will state categorically that I was born to be an entertainer, that I am an extravert, a show-off, that I need an audience. I was on stage by the age of 7 telling jokes to an adult audience.
The only 'A' I ever received at school is for writing fiction and I still have the report from my English teacher that states I have an extraordinary 'imagination' if only I could spell it!!! At 16 I was singing in bars with bands and now at 29 I am still singing in bars and looking for an outlet for my imagination (note how I can spell it now).
The things is, I am not an extravert at all. I am not that confident either, I have an internal struggle that has taken some 29 years to realise and face up to. It's never easy looking at one's self and being critical. It's even harder to look at one's workings and realise that they are neither faults nor strengths... It's just the way it is. Of course we can work towards changing certain aspects of ourselves.
The internal struggle, or paradox, is that I need recognition from the masses but at the same time, I want to be different from the masses. I am driven to create, to bear my soul and my outlet is music and fiction. If I don't write or play music, I feel a pressure build in me, it's unrelenting and insatiable and will not be denied. I am deeply unhappy if I can not create. To me, imagination is like a plant, it needs sunlight and attention to thrive. I don't want to write, I need to write and if I am honest, sometimes I don't even enjoy writing but I am far less happy if I am not writing at all.
And of course the other element of myself that needs satisfying, is recognition. And in the writing world that means publication at some point. My personality needs people to know that I create and for them to think that I am good at it, even if it is not to their taste. When people ask me what I do, I want to say "I am a writer" or "I am a musican" or even better... People don't need to ask what Justin Thorne does, they just need to ask if I am him (none of this is supposed to sound arrogant by the way, I am talking basic psychological needs and being honest about my own).
Maslow's hierarchy or needs anyone? As humans, children or adult, we all have basic needs and in order they are, Physiological (the need to eat and drink), safety (shelter and not dying basically), social needs (the need to interact with peers), esteem needs (the need to be praised by said peers) and self actualisation (the need to create). Now we all have differing requirements at each level although we all need them all to a certain degree. Now I clearly have much higher esteem and self-actualisation needs than your avergae Joe and I use writing and music to fulfil them.
I know the above is very... Sterile... But it explains my base need to create and get recognition... Of course the emotive elements can't be so easily explained, I love to create and I love for people to enjoy what I create. I like immersing myself in my imagination and bringing characters to life...
I hope that made some sense!!! You should actually read my work, MUCH more confusing sometimes.
Morgana the Fey
March 9th, 2004, 05:09 PM
Why I stopped writing
Picture it! You're eleven years old, the lanky bookish kid who the teachers say has a great flair for creative writing. Your form teacher asks you to write a story for the school mag but unbeknownst to him you've been watching the Hammer House of Horror at the weekends. You come up with a story called The House of Blood where the walls ooze pus and gore. You think its quite unique in your own pre-pubescent mind and enthusiastically hand it over. The teacher reads it out in front of the class and everyone starts to laugh and you're left standing there with egg on your face as the teacher hurls it back muttering " pure filth "
Why I started again
I wrote a poem after I left Belfast for good. The start of it goes as follows :-
Born and bred in Belfast both
Of east and west divide
The fates conspired and intervened
To make our paths collide
We made love, we were happy
But others had their say
They banished us
And spat on us
They made us move away
Corny but I'm sure you get the gist. Mixed marriages aren't too welcome by your average friendly local paramilitary! And the point? In my own way I want to create something beautiful from a world of sh*t.
Other places inside the imagination, an escape, a retreat or just a vacation from normal hum drum life. I don't know if I possess the ability to actually sit down and write a novel although I have a plethora of ideas that keep me up until the early hours and then I finally give in, get up & write it all down, back to bed, alarm call 5 mins later. And then I come here and read what people write and feel like a fraud but I'll keep going no matter that I paint fairies and write fantastical tales which I haven't had the audacity to submit here yet. There appears to be a great level of tolerance for the creativity and ideas of others on this site. ( Not that I have much experience of forums but its a damn good starting point! ) The ghost of the teacher from hell will be laid to rest yet.
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