Why Do Writers Write?

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This probably sounds like a silly question, considering we could ask the same thing of people in all walks of life. Naturally I have my own reasons for wanting to write and I’ve come across other writers’ answers during TV interviews and so on. So I’ve attempted a summary of responses. Perhaps you can recognise your own reasons in at least one of them.  You may have some I haven’t touched on. Anyway, here they are:

  1. To write has been a long-held ambition.

Often, when young people are faced with the question of why they want to pursue a particular career their immediate response is, ‘I’ve always wanted to . . .’ Many years ago, at my college interview, I was asked, ‘Why do you want to teach?’ At school we’d had it drummed into our heads that if the question arose on interview, we did not reply, ‘I’ve always wanted to.’ I suppose the message stuck. This kind of question definitely needs a carefully thought-out response, even though the instinctive reply of ‘always wanted to’ may be quite true.

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So, where did this life-long desire originate? Many fiction writers will tell you how their love of stories from an early age inspired them to write – first listening to them being read to them, then reading the words for themselves. As a child I loved tales of adventure, which inspired me to write my own little stories, both at home and at school.  With most people the love of story ‘type’ gradually becomes more selective and certain genres appeal more than others.

2.  You have a story simply bursting to be told

Sometimes, an author has a story whirling around inside his/her head, begging to be told. It may have been lurking there for years, or have recently arrived with a sudden POW! Perhaps it was created entirely by the author’s imagination, or is a well-known story imploring a different manner of telling. In my own case, this is certainly true.

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  1. You want to share your own particular area of expertise

For non-fiction authors, the desire to inform looms high – whatever the subject. Many of us have relied on a variety of reference books in our time, and I certainly value the research done by these authors.

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With fiction writers, the need, to inform is still there. But in this case, the background, factual detail is undoubtedly best fed into the story gradually and discreetly. If not, the book will sound like a text book and probably put readers off.

  1. A realisation that you can actually write hits you

Sometimes, the wanting to write only surfaces after a person has already pursued a career in another profession. Perhaps that person took no interest in reading until then, or maybe someone recommended a good book. Perhaps the chosen job didn’t satisfy a creative urge that has only now manifest itself, or the job itself involves writing documents, letters and so on that others frequently admire. Who knows? But tales of people who veered into writing from completely different careers are everywhere. Unusual careers themselves often make good reading matter, whether fiction or non-fiction.

  1. You can express your thoughts and ideas better in writing

The need to apologise is a good example here. The coward’s way out, you may say. Yet the example illustrates my point well. Thoughts, especially emotional ones, are so much easier to write than say. So are lies, I suppose.

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The spoken word involves interaction with people and their judgemental, discerning eyes. The computer page, or notepad, does not have eyes and a writer can pour his/her heart out. And writers may draw on personal experience of events too difficult to talk about, assigning them more easily to fictional characters.

  1. You write for the sheer love of words

Words are the writer’s tool, and it is how individual writers use them that can determine whether a book is fascinating or utterly dull. I’m not saying an entire book should be written in elaborately flowery language – that would be as bad as having no particularly descriptive passages.  Nor am I overlooking the need for a great plot and memorable characters. Words are to be tested and sounded out before used; something writers are usually good at. They play around with different possibilities or, perhaps, use them in similes and metaphors, creating images that come to life as we read . . .

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Ah well, I always did love to read.