Why Write?

I think that writing is a good contender for the least rewarding creative endeavor. With painting and sculpting, you can watch your work take shape before your eyes, and when it’s finished you and others can immediately appreciate it. Likewise with music, and there you also have the collaborative aspect which must be immensely rewarding. But writing involves sitting alone in a room for hours on end banging away on a keyboard, and then when you’ve finished that you’re left facing the daunting task of editing your work. Granted, art and music have their own editing processes as well, but they probably don’t involve torturing yourself over a brush-stroke or note the way writers do with words. And at the end of it all, you have to ask readers to make the considerably more strenuous effort of reading your work before they can appreciate it. There are no casual stroll-bys or half-listenings with a book, you’ve got to hold that beast in your hands and give it your full mental attention for significant amounts of time.

So why do we do it? What possesses us to whittle away at our precious free time that could be spent with family and friends? Or with being entertained instead of the other way around? Or doing a myriad of other things that don’t involve sweating it out over a keyboard? This is even more true for fiction writers who have almost no hope that their work will ever see the light of day–unless, of course, they happen to have a rich Uncle Bobby who runs a publishing house and doesn’t mind taking a chance on his favorite niece’s little book.

As with artists and musicians, I think that a writer’s motivation is purely from within. For whatever reason, people who write feel that they have something to say, or a story to tell, or a point of view that they are passionate about, and cannot help but to express that in the way that comes most naturally to them. This is one of the reasons I find the new self-pubbing opportunities so exciting. Finally, and for the first time on a truly global basis, writers are able to make their works available to readers without having to worry about kowtowing to business demands or mainstream concerns. This is an exciting time for those people who cannot help but write; let’s hope they do it as creatively as possible.

Next week Paul j Rogers returns with a look at writing rituals

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  1. Mark Porter
    Posted July 15, 2010 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    I have played with two bands and the collaborative process, whilst great when it is working well, can quickly strain. Ego often takes centre stage and sometimes the loudest opinion beats out the best outcome for the song. I have found with writing that I am comfortable to stand on my own merits… or fail by them. I think this is also an appeal to writers. Although solitude can be difficult, I think most writers, by nature, are pleased to spend long periods in their own compnay. This does not have to mean that they are not sociable creatures, just that they like space to think and to create. Also, I think there is a prt of us that likes the wait and see principle of receiving feedback. The groan in the pit of our stomach’s when we see someone who has been reading our latest. Finally, I think we are fascinated by the human condition in all of it’s forms. To document that in some way and to receive feedback is reward in itself. If anyone is after instant gratification, however… they are unlikely to find it.

  2. Andrew
    Posted July 16, 2010 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    I was hoping you’d comment on the music side of things. Is the front man usually the one giving the loudest opinions?

    Agreed on enjoying long periods of solitude–as long as it doesn’t lead to stagnation. But I suppose that’s really only a threat to professional writers who never have to leave their homes and make a living doing something else. The lucky bastards!

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