Why do you write?
I was asked this question today and it caught me rather off guard. After all, how often does someone ask “why?” when it comes to other hobbies?
And it’s not like you can go with the standard mountain climber’s answer of “because it’s there.” After all, for most of the things I’m writing it’s not there until after I’m finished with, at the very least, the first terrible draft.
So, I actually had to think about the question for a little while and actually figure out, why do I write?
The answer I’ve usually given is that I write because I dream one day of being published, and leaving behind some kind of physical legacy that I once occupied this insignificant little blue-green planet. Of course, that was before I had a child, and he is certainly a much better legacy than just a book could be, even if he can be just as infuriating sometimes.
At the simplest level, I write for three reasons, which I think of as the three C’s (a commenter used a different set of three C’s to describe the process of writing realistic villains but I had these C’s in mind first):
Firstly, I write because I enjoy the act of creativity. I get to shape worlds in my own image, and that has a certain appeal to my colossally oversized ego.
Secondly, I write because it gives me a sense of control. In the real world, I’m basically the least important person in my own life, whereas in fiction I am like unto a god. I can tell all these characters exactly what to think and do, and why they should do it. Even better, they actually listen to me and obey my every whim without protest. Sure, occasionally characters will take over the story and act contrary to what I had planned, but it’s still ultimately in the service of my plans and my will. The power is all mine. Bwa-ha-h-a-ha-ha-ha! Ahem.
And the third reason and the reason I started really writing in the first place is for catharsis. A lot of writers will tell you that writing is a form of therapy for them, and I certainly count myself within that number. You might have noticed something of a running theme of powerlessness for myself mentioned in the prior two reasons, and this is an extension of that. Sometimes, when you feel like venting all your rage, misery, sadness or other negative emotion, you don’t want to vent at another person. At least, I don’t, because very few people deserve that. In a fictional world, I can take out all my anger on the protagonists, or the villains, or the sidekick or even upon the world itself. There’s nothing quite as cleansing to the soul as imagining and enforcing an apocalyptic scenario on a world, and it’s a lot easier to do that on a world of fiction than it is in this real world. There’s a lot less cops and soldiers to deal with that way too.
Those are the big three reasons why I write. What are the reasons for you?
(Photograph by Adam Ciesielski)