Saturday, August 13, 2011

Why do we write?

I am pondering the question. ;)

This question has been brought up a number of times in the past few weeks. 

For example, today I told my husband about a writing mentorship I would like to enter with my work-in-progress novel.  Having just returned from a not-cheap, but wholly rewarding annual conference, the thought of investing more money into my writing stopped him short for a moment (understandably).  “Well, if it will help you get published . . .” he sighed.

“There’s no guarantee I will get published from it,” I chattered on, “but it would be such a wonderful learning experience.  Besides, even if I did get published, it’s not like we could sell the house and move into a mansion.  I’d really be lucky to make much money from it.”

Stupid, stupid.  Why didn’t I just shut up?

“What?”  Now I had his full intention.  “So, why would we spend more money on this unless we eventually get it back and then some?  Why throw our money away?”

Ouch – like a knife to the heart.  He attempted to soothe my artistic ego:  “I mean, I love that you have a passion, but maybe we should hold off on the conferences and stuff for a while.”

Those were not the words I wanted to hear.  Of course I wanted him to say, “Here’s a blank check – live your dream!”  But the reality is, writing often isn’t published and while it would be great to be published, that isn’t why I write.  And he’s right.  I have a passion, but do I need to attend every writing event there is and invest hundreds (or thousands) of dollars towards something that ultimately may never be – the elusive book deal? 


At one of my writer’s group meetings, a woman’s work was being critiqued and someone asked her why she didn’t change a particular aspect of her story to make it more marketable. 

She responded, “Because this is for me.  I’ve done the work that everyone wanted me to write.  I’ve learned the craft and revised and revised and revised my work for others.  This one, it’s for me.”


I know another person who went the self-publishing route.  It is the newest trend and many writers are finally getting the opportunity to share their work.  In a matter of months the entire process is complete from sending it in, having it edited, and getting it published.  It’s like rubbing a magic lamp. 

“I heard publishing through a publishing house takes years and years,” she told me. 

Well, yes, that’s true.  But the method of self-publishing to me seems to be instant gratification for a generation that has lost their ability to wait.  I know there are many people who have various, valid reasons for choosing self-publishing and I certainly respect them.  To each his own. But for me, again, it begs the question, why do we write?  More specifically, why do I write?

Is it to be published?  Then, yes, I should attend every conference to meet agents or publishers, or self-publish.

Is it to get my words out there – immediately, if possible?  Well, I have a blog for that, right?

Or is it because I need to, I have to, I love to? 

My attendance at conferences has been to learn, but I respect my husband’s recommendation that we keep costs to a minimum for a while – but I will still write. 

Of course, I would love to share my work with the world, but in the end, I write because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be happy.  When I’m not writing or creating, there is a void in me.  My life feels as if it is missing something.

That’s why I write.

Why do you write? 


Morgan said...

Great post! I do sometimes find it hard to remember why I write when I get so wrapped up in the publishing process and thinking how to go about it... but as soon as I sit down and start writing, I remember why I love it!

I had a teacher who constantly reminded us: "write for yourself, edit for an audience" (which is quite possibly a quote from someone more famous than my college TA). I've found it easy to follow. New ideas flow out exactly as they come, and after some space, looking back on them, some parts may need to be cut or expanded on. As for editors/publishers advice, I don't have much experience, but I know I usually take about 3/4 of the advice my critique groups give me. I think listening to other people's opinions on your work is extremely important, but any changes you make are ultimately your own, so make sure they're what you want.

BreiW said...

I love the quote you used - whoever said it. ;) In fact, that is one I think I'll use in my own classroom. To often, we get too caught up in the "audience," as you said and it's important to allow ourselves to freely express ourselves first, before the editing/revising. Good advice about critiques, too!