“Fiction is supposed to be, forgive me, less shitty than life. Better than life. It is supposed to make more sense than life. That’s one of the reasons we read, one of the reasons we write. We want to feel we are forgiven and that there is hope…. Redemption is and always has been a staple of American fiction.” ~Author Molly Giles, in Odds on Ends, “The Writer’s Chronicle”
When I posed the question “Why do you write” on Twitter, Facebook and this blog, reasons similar to the one above showed up, again and again, in the responses. Writers write to figure out our own lives. To make sense of the world. It keeps us sane. As one friend pointed out,“it’s cheaper than therapy,” too.
Or … are our reasons less noble?
Writing is also a way to escape. Fiction offers a relatively painless way of learning about other realities, allowing us to vicariously experience things we might not otherwise do. It makes sense, then, that the act of writing would also provide the author with such an experience. We find true love, we triumph over adversity, we explore the ocean or outer space, go back in time, challenge ourselves, and we fail and we get back up.
Many writers feel compelled to write: “I can’t not write,” or,“I don’t know how to do anything else.” Writers love the creative process, and we love words.“Words are toys,” and “the page is our playground.”
Some of us write to to“shake things up.” For writers, “words are magic, the most powerful force on the planet.” Storytelling can change people’s lives by showing them worlds and peoples they never knew existed; it can carry on traditions; or present another way of looking at something we take for granted. Publishing is the next step in sharing our experience and/or knowledge with a broader audience. We want to connect. We want to be heard.
To Be Known
Which brings me to one reason that not all of us would willingly admit. As one writer boldly said, “It’s always been a dream of mine to see my name on a book on a bookshelf.”
I applaud that honesty. George Orwell says it’s nonsense to pretend our primary motive is not our compelling desire to be seen as clever, to be talked about, and remembered after we die. He calls this sheer egoism, and it’s top on his list of motives in his essay “Why I Write.” The other reasons Orwell gives are aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose. Interestingly, he does not mention therapy or making sense out of chaos.
Orwell also points out that “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.” If so, why do we do write? How can we say it’s fun? We wouldn’t, unless we’re driven by something. Orwell wonders if it’s the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. Is that what writers want? Attention? I certainly believe that may be true for some writers, but, fortunately, what motivates one may not matter much to another.
Despite that not-so-altruistic reason for writing, perhaps most the compelling is the sense of purpose that it gives us when we push the world in a certain direction.
It all comes down to the message, whatever that message may be.
Truthfully, the message encompasses most of the above reasons, doesn’t it? As a writer, let me help you make sense of the chaos through my story. Let me lead you to a safer place. Let me entertain you. Let me teach you something new. Let me turn your world upside down. Let me set it right again.
That’s why I write.
Why do you write?
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of In the Context of Love: contemporary adult fiction about love, lust, and family secrets.
Angelica Schirrick had always suspected there was something deeply disturbing about her family, but the truth was more than she bargained for.
“Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s powerful and richly detailed debut novel is at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River, and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters