Why I Write

Writing with a fountain pen

Quite often I ask myself why I write. It wasn’t something that I thought about doing and then decided to do; it just sort of happened. It all started when my mom decided to teach me my spelling words by having me write a book using those spelling words. We started out pretty strong, but slowly I got all into the story and began using very few spelling words. I was five, so my mom would write the story while I told it to her. Eventually she told me that if I wanted to continue the story, I would have to write it myself. After that I wrote about two paragraphs, and it was too much for me. However, I continued to work on the book, and it helped me learn typing also. I would spend days typing one page, and eventually I was a very fluent typist. Mavis Beacon—puh! Anyway, that’s my story. Writing taught me spelling and typing; and a lot of other things, too.

I honestly haven’t thought a lot about why other people write; I assume it comes from a need to communicate some sort of idea of some sort—a premise, if you will. For me, who is the only person I know about for sure, writing isn’t just fun, or important; it’s a necessity. I have to write. It’s one of the ways I make sense of the world. I’ll be honest; there are a lot of things about life I don’t understand. I’m pretty sure that’s natural for someone who’s twenty years old. But writing helps me express my confusion in a way that makes sense. I’ve gone for long periods without typing a single word of fiction, but I can’t stop the storytelling machine that is my brain. Sometimes I’ll wake up from a dream and my mind will start forming that fragmented dream into a story. Sometimes I’ll be really depressed about something and my mind will create a story about a person going through those same things I am, and then show possible resolutions. It’s kind of like my mind is creating simulations of how my life could go, and then I can pick the one that I like the most.

Writing is also a way I communicate my deepest feelings. Either I can’t put these feelings into words, or I don’t want to admit I have them. Writing a story is a way to get these feelings out. I hope that my books help people who know me to understand me better, because there’s a lot of me in my books. Every writer puts their worldview into their book, and I don’t just mean their religion. Whether the writer is an optimist or a pessimist is very obvious through the story. I’ve mentioned this in an earlier post, when I was talking about writing something you are currently struggling with. I’m guilty of this, and those stories never go anywhere, but they do help me personally. Then there are the stories in my head which I never write down, but they’re there, helping me work through life and my feelings.

Writing isn’t easy. There are months where I don’t even open up the word processor except to read school documents. Maybe I’m stuck on a current story, or busy, or just burned out. Writers get tired, too. Writing a novel isn’t easy, especially if you’ve written several drafts. However, if you’ve ever finished a novel, then you know how rewarding that feeling is. When I’ve spent months (or years) on a novel, and I finally type the words “THE END,” boy, does that feel good. I lean back with a sigh of relief and stare at the final word count. It may sound strange, but I take pride in my word counts. If I’ve made it over 50,000 words, that’s quite the accomplishment. Write a book. You’ll see what I mean.

Expressing oneself and making sense of the world aren’t the only reasons I write. Stories are the perfect way to communicate with other people, short of actually giving that person an experience, which isn’t possible with current technology. I think that people underestimate the persuasive power of storytelling. A story has a way of getting inside your head; it bypasses many of the usual barriers that people put up when they hear someone’s opinion through conversation or read it in a blog post. I’m sure you’ve read a book or seen a movie that really made you reconsider how you think about some topic; that’s one of the many powers of storytelling. We’re not writers, we’re mind-controllers. Muhahaha.

Then of course there are the more basic pleasures that come out of writing a story. I enjoy creating my own little world with my own rules, races, technology, and of course characters. I love creating characters. There’s something about breathing life into someone that exists only in your (and your reader’s) imagination. After writing a book for a long time, I become very attached to the characters. I once wrote a book that I had planned out pretty well; I knew all the characters that were going to die, how they were going to die, and when they were going to die. What I hadn’t planned on was how attached I would get to these characters before I killed them off. I remember one character I became so attached to that when it came time to kill him, I didn’t. I spared him.

There’s another reason I write, however. This is a reason everyone can give, even if they don’t admit it. People need to be recognized. They need to feel important–to feel needed. Because of this basic desire, people do all sorts of things. Some people write software, some people paint, some people post constantly to their Twitter accounts. I write. I’ll be brutally honest with you, as I’ve had to be with myself: I write because I want people to like me. Sometimes the only motivation I have for finishing a story is how I think it will make other people think of me. Maybe this is wrong, and most of the time it probably doesn’t make a difference, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a strong driving force. Maybe you know what I’m talking about, but from a different perspective. Maybe you’re a young teenager who thinks being in a relationship with someone else will make you important, or get you more attention. The truth is, a great story doesn’t make a great person. Feeling important shouldn’t be a motivation for anything we do. I’m saying this more to myself than anyone else, because there are some days where I just feel like if I don’t finish this story, well, that’s it. I’m done. Nobody cares unless I make them care through my words. That’s true in some cases, but not in the really important ones. The truly great stories I write aren’t for other people. They aren’t to make me look good. Sometimes they are the stories I’ll probably never show to anyone else. They’re the stories I wrote for me. Because I needed to say something, so I did.

That’s why I write. Why do you?