In my ongoing quest to understand why people write, I'm now collecting quotes about writing. To start, this one is from The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), a quote from a character who is an author:
...I tend to find out what I feel on a subject by writing about it. It is how we interpret the world, how we make sense of it.
I think reading what characters say about writing is fascinating to compare with what the author of the book thinks about writing. From J.K. Rowling's website, here's part of why she says she writes:
A very different point of view comes from Terry Farish, author of a lovely book called The Good Braider. In this book, Farish uses lyric prose to experience the world through the eyes of another person, and her statement about why she writes reflects this exploration:
I must take the time to
In the introduction of The Gifts of Imperfection, author Brene Brown writes about the process of how she decided to write such a book. I love Brene Brown and I LOVE this book, but I already worry about what I'm writing being worthwhile, so I'm not sure I want to ask myself this! Is it necessary to worry about the worth of something? Is it enough to have the story and the impulse to draft and revise and share it?
Before I start writing, I always ask myself, 'Why is this book worth writing? What's the contribution that I'm hoping to make?'
Author Barry Lopez seems to have less concern on considering the worth or merit of a piece of writing and instead embraces stories to care for and share as needed. The gentleness and openness of his philosophy is such a restful place in which to create.
The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If the stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed.
In Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, the protagonist, Cath, is a dedicated fanfiction writer and new college student reluctant to try writing anything original. In chapter two, Cath's creative writing classmates are discussing why they write:
"To explore new worlds." "To explore old ones." "To set ourselves free."
But while the class is throwing out ideas, Cath is thinking:
"To get free of ourselves...To stop being anything or anywhere at all...To disappear."
Later, in chapter 23, Cath's English professor talks to her directly about writing. Cath has still not tried writing anything original. I love their debate (in part, below) because it illustrates that there are so many ways to be immersed in writing. I think Cath's love of writing fanfiction is not less worthy than writing original work, but it's definitely a different process.
For over a decade, I have been dabbling with writing as a kind of hobby--mostly working on a young adult novel and children's picture books. I've also done a lot of journaling as a way to try understanding myself and the world. And of course, most of my jobs have involved writing: quarterly summaries, incident reports, departmental support via email, etc. Recently, I decided to try focusing more on writing, to see if it was something I really wanted to do vocationally. But on which kind did I want to focus? Non-fiction, such as SEO or other types of ghostwriting, or even articles for magazines? Or memoir-type essays? Or fiction?
So of course I started trying to do ALL of the ideas. And after a couple of months of that, I can report that is NOT working. There are so many things milling around in my head that they are crowding each other out. I go round in circles and sometimes end up doing NONE of the ideas.
Which one, then, should be the focus? Would it help if I knew why I want to write?
Six months ago, I would have said I want to write fiction because it's more fun than my day-job. Wouldn't it be great to have a fun job? But since I'm now trying to understand the writing urge and my place in the writing world, I have not just been exploring other types of writing, but other reasons to write besides enjoyment. So far I have collected the following reasons (and please note that these aren't necessarily my reasons!):
GAH! That's a lot of possible reasons. Not really helping pick a focus, but quite a bit further along in my writing quest than "I want to write because it's fun!"
I guess it's silly of me to have assumed simplicity with this task--what in life worth doing is ever simple, after all? The list above is making my head spin, and for practical reasons, I do need to focus, so for now I'm going to do what I usually do in trying to figure things out: I'm going to see how I feel about it.
Day-job writing hasn't been particularly creative, but it's usually been satisfying in that it's complete in a short time, and connecting in that someone else usually reads it right away.
The process of journaling is therapeutic, engaging, and freeing and I usually feel amazing when I'm done.
Writing essays/short stories is engrossing, but halfway through I often blob out, thinking that this couldn't possibly be interesting or useful to anyone.
Writing children's books feels silly and light.
And working on my novel...that's the most complex one--that's a rollercoaster writing experience. Fun, maddening, engrossing, surprising. And also the one that I can't stay away from. No matter how long I've gone between drafts or how crazy-making it is, I always come back to it.
So maybe that's enough for now. Maybe I don't need to define it or know exactly why I want to write. Maybe it's enough to acknowledge that something compels me to do it, to come back to it, to stick with it. So I will.
Why do you write?