Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why Do You Write?

     Why do writers write?

     It's a question I've been interested in for a long time. What possesses otherwise sane, intelligent people to take up pen and paper, or open up a new Word document, and proceed to spill their thoughts and feelings out onto the page? I suppose the question interests me because I can't really answer it for myself. I suppose there is an element of wanting to be a part of the larger literary world, to leave my mark, however insignificant, on the annals of time. I suppose another part of it is a desire to achieve recognition for something that I have created, something that is wholly of my own invention--as much as anything can be, of course. Or maybe it's as simple as having stories to tell and wanting to tell them, wanting to do for others what so many authors have done for me: shown me entire universes that exist only in the imagination; brought to life people and places that are as real as any man or woman who passes me on the street--more real, actually, for I haven't but glimpsed these characters in passing but have lived with them. I have shared their joys and sorrows, I have known their deepest thoughts and desires. For me, this has always seemed like something of a miracle. I suppose, in a way, I want to work some of these miracles myself.

     That's my answer today but I'm not sure I'm entirely satisfied with it. It sounds good, it sounds "writerly," but if you ask me the same question tomorrow, I may have a different answer. So I decided I would ask some of my fellow miracle-makers the question. Why Do You Write? I hope you find the answers as interesting and revealing as I did.

     I write for llamas. I've had a ten year dream to own a llama farm, and what better way to achieve that goal than to write fiction and eat bacon? Okay? Maybe not.
     I believe I write to get the seeds of ideas which populate my head out in the sun, to let them germinate, water them and see what grows. Sometimes what grows is a big bushy novel, full of berries and leaves and prickly sticks where insects can thrive. Other times, I find only a tiny blade of grass or a dandelion that needs just a little nudging to bloom. Basically, I write because I have seeds to sow, and I've been sowing those seeds since the 2nd grade when I graduated from crayon on the wall to pencil and paper.
     - Benjamin X. Wretlind, Author of Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors

     As half of the writing team, Wodke Hawkinson, one reason I write is so my co-author, PJ, will remain happy with me. Joking aside, I write because it gives me a place to put the ideas and scenes in my head, so they don't just leak out and make a mess everywhere. Holding all that chaos inside is not good for a person! It's much more productive to turn it into stories. And both PJ and I have a goal of earning our living through writing. We are honored every time someone reads our work, and we are thrilled to be doing something we enjoy.
     - K. Wodke, co-Author of Betrayed

     I agree with my co-author, Karen. It does get messy when the words leak out of your head. One time, the words were six inches deep on my carpet and they clogged up my vacuum cleaner. I had to go buy a new one. So now, I prefer to put my words in books for other people to enjoy, so they're not wasted.
     - PJ Hawkinson, co-Author of Betrayed

     I write to let the voices in my head tell their stories. I have lived countless lifetimes in my imagination and from reading books. I have always wanted to do the same for others, therefore, I write. That and I’m pretty sure I would lose my sanity if I didn’t let the crazies out of my head! Hey, it’s pretty cheap therapy and I love it! If I couldn’t write, I would just die–it is like breathing to me, an essential I embrace with every word.
     - Alexia Purdy, Author of Ever Shade: A Dark Faerie Tale

     I started writing as an escape from the continual torture I received from other kids when I was a child. It was a way for me to live through the 'perfect lives' of my characters. I would put the pen to paper and escape into another world where I was accepted and liked by others. As I got older, I found writing to be a therapeutic way to hash out my thoughts. I suffer from Genetic Anxiety/Depression which causes me to suffer from many emotions at once and it also makes it hard to focus on what I would like to write. Writing is not only my passion, but it has also helped me to find a 'smile' in my worst moments. I also write because I truly enjoy it. It has become a major part of who I am today!
     - Kristin Conner

     There has to be an extra gene somewhere in the pool making its demands. Being a glutton for punishment I work longer hours than I would like to remember. The simple act of running an errand becomes a fiasco when my thoughts become a raging nightmare for another story. My mind never shuts down! Between all of this I am having an affair with the keyboard and I love it. Why do I write? The answer is simple, it is who I am.
     - Micheal Rivers, Author of The Black Witch

     I write because I enjoy the creative activity and the resulting psychological benefits that come from it. Writing can be very therapeutic. For a time I get to inhabit my heroes and live vicariously through them. I can be President Kennedy or Sherlock Holmes or the hero of Future Perfect with a lower than normal body temperature. I’m still more comfortable in the summer time after inventing Jamie McCord. My next book, Ghosts of Forgotten Empires, will feature a Star Trek quoting spy who stumbles upon an alien technology that will help him answer questions about his own family. These characters can live in wondrous alternate realities or come to ours equipped with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men… or women. There’s also the satisfaction of telling a story that not only appeals to you the writer but that others appreciate as well. So I write for myself in hopes that others will relish the same fantasy and perhaps even draw inspiration from it as I have from other works of fiction.
     - Michael J. Foy, Author of The Kennedy Effect

     I write because a million tales reside within me, waiting to be spawned. These stories can only be told by me, nobody else will ever know them unless I pen their saga; they will never live without me, nor I without them. There are lives within them waiting to walk and talk, to run and fight and love. These are lives which will never exist if I don’t create them, like babes born into this wretched world. I write because I am a writer, a storyteller designed to tell stories, and without them my life would be wasted, a shell of what I am supposed to be. But with them I hold purpose, and if a single soul is touched by my words it will have been a life well lived.
     - Luke Romyn, Author of The Dark Path

     If you're a writer and would like to tell the world just why it is you do what you do, I'll be posting "Why Do You Write? Part II" once I get a sufficient amount of submissions.
     Send yours to with the subject "Why Do You Write?" and I'll be happy to include you!

You might also be interested in:
Why Do You Write? Part II
Buying Indie Month
A Conversation with Benjamin X. Wretlind
A Morning in the Life of a Writer
5 Ways to Help Authors without Spending a Dime


  1. Love your essay. I've been doing a blog on and off called

    So, it's a question I'm constantly exploring!
    Thanks again!

  2. Great post! It's always interesting to know the different reasons we all do what we do. I've emailed you mine :D

  3. Great post, Michael. Sometimes I wonder this myself...why do we do this thing we do, this magical torturous blissful detailed (etc...) thing that tires us and yet makes us smile, all the same? Thanks for sharing your thoughts and those of the people within your entry.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading.

  4. I sometimes forget why I love writing, and then when I finish a particularly good book by a favorite author, that moment when it's all over and I breathe out a 'thank you' to that writer, I remember. I want to do the same. I want others to know what I know, and feel what I feel, get a glimpse of the universe as I see it, which all by itself and without any reference to how correct my view is, improves the mind. And I want them to get that strange feeling of mixed pleasure and gratitude and irritation when the story is through. Why irritation? Because it might be a year or more before the next book comes out. I'm talking to YOU, David Weber!

  5. I think I write because I can't not do it. If I'm lucky I'll get an obsessive idea or character which gives me no room to think of anything else. I can't make room until I write about it/them. At other times I write because I've started a project so I have to finish it; do justice to the original idea. There is of course a part of me that would like to make my mark, however small, on the literary world (not booker prize style, but in listing of 'must read' books perhaps or a weird cult following???.) There's probably an element of escapism involved too.