Why write

Lately I’ve been thinking about why people write. What are people’s reasons for putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys), and are those reasons “legitimate”? Is there such a thing as a bad reason to write? Do you have to have a reason at all?

Eric is the one who got me thinking about all this, when he tweeted and then blogged about being (what I termed) a “word-doctor”:

I see myself staunching wounds. All the pages of all my books going into a great hole in people and slowing the loss of blood.

I, on the other hand, probably provide the laughing gas:

My writing… is more like the anesthesia. It takes you to your happy place, lol.

Erin is the teacher:

Good writing has the ability to make us feel things we may not otherwise be in a position to feel, and because of that we are fuller, richer human beings.

It has the power to convey profound truths without us having to experience them for ourselves.

To heal, to entertain, to educate… Just a few reasons from a few writers. Hardly a complete list. And if I had to guess, I’d say it’s likely that we’re all motivated by a combination of these reasons, even if one is chief in our minds at a certain time.

For example, if I had to boil it down right now, I would say that I write because I think and feel deeply when I look at this world, and I want to share those thoughts and feelings in an eloquent and meaningful way. A way that might make other people think and feel deeply too.

That’s true whether I’m writing a literary short story about dead deer, a web series about 3 twenty-something girls, or a novel about teenagers with superpowers. (Believe it or not, hahaha.)

What are the reasons that you write? What do you hope to accomplish, if anything? Do you write for yourself, for the whole world, for your cat?

Do you think why we write even matters?

21 responses to “Why write”

  1. Jon Avatar

    Hey, don’t knock the cat! He gives some of the best feedback!

    I used to write to make people laugh and I still do. I mean, that is sort of the best reward–someone gets your joke. I don’t know about the dramatic stuff, it would be cool to make someone cry but I’m not quite there yet.
    .-= • Recent post by Jon: Santa Barbara =-.

  2. Eric Avatar

    You could try to be deconstructionist about it and pull apart our reasoning and find why we said what, but I think that’s largely a load of bull. It doesn’t matter. What matters is what people take away from it, whether that’s healing or education or what have you. It’s always about the reader.
    .-= • Recent post by Eric: The Truest Thing I’ve Ever Said =-.

  3. Sonja Avatar

    I write for my own enjoyment. I do not have a goal of accomplishing something in/for someone else. I get a high out of writing when the writing is good (my own judgment, of course LOL). It’s very satisfying. :)
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: In which I bide my time =-.

  4. Les Avatar

    I write mostly for my own enjoyment, and I’m a little narcissistic. I like to see if I can describe something better than anyone else.
    .-= • Recent post by Les: A slow trickle =-.

  5. Kristan Avatar

    Well you made me laugh just now!

    Yeah, I think *my* answer to my last question is that no, it doesn’t really matter why we write. Even if I write a story for X,Y,Z, a reader might get A,B,C out of it. And that’s cool. Hopefully we both got what we needed then, you know?

    :D Obviously a lot of what I write isn’t just for me, but I *do* write some things just for myself, so I sort of know that feeling you’re talking about.

    What I love about these reasons is that none of them are right or wrong.

    Haha, well you describe things pretty darn well, IMHO.

  6. Albie Avatar

    i write bc you tell me to blog :P

  7. Kristan Avatar

    Oh yeah? Well when was the last time you blogged? I can see how effective my nagging is… >P

  8. rose Avatar


    i write because it allows me a catharsis without having to burden someone else! i write a lot about the same thing over and over again because i tend to dwell on things in comparison to other people. i write for art’s sake, too. i also like to write about food, haha.

  9. Kimberly Franklin Avatar

    Kristan, can I join you in the happy gas room? My writing is full of that good, happy stuff!

    But why do I write?

    Hmm… that’s such a good question. I started writing just for myself. Yeah, I hope to get published one day, but if it were to never happen, at least I’ve made myself happy with my stories. It’s such an important thing to remember because nothing in the publishing/writing world is guarnteed. : D

  10. Kristan Avatar

    A) Is it weird that I feel special because you commented on my blog?
    B) I miss reading your catharsis. :)

    Haha, yes, we can both distribute the laughing gas. Actually Erin’s book (which is AMAZING!!!!!!) is much less “teach-y” than her quote/recent post would have you think. It’s more adventure + laughing gas + fantasy. But hey, I was making a point here! :P

    And your point is a good one too: “at least I’ve made myself happy with my stories.” No matter what your other goals may be, that’s a key ingredient!

  11. Angie Avatar

    I am a selfish writer. I write to heal, so to speak, myself. It matters why we write–and I think we do think about it because we always think about our audience. Be it the world, or ourselves.

    I second missing Rose’s catharsis.
    .-= • Recent post by Angie: Just look up =-.

  12. Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist Avatar

    I write because the emotions need to get out. I write because there is nothing like a book to save you, entertain you, educate you and I want to help create those lovely things!
    .-= • Recent post by Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist: I’m famous! =-.

  13. Kirsten Avatar

    I write to express myself and to bring some coherency to my thoughts. The vast majority of my writing at this point is on my blog or in a journal format.
    .-= • Recent post by Kirsten: Encyclopedia of Me – K is for Kindergarten =-.

  14. Mike Chen Avatar

    Simple. I write much better than I speak. :)

  15. Kristan Avatar

    I don’t think that’s selfish! I think that’s a motivation for all writers, in a way.

    “I write because there is nothing like a book to save you, entertain you, educate you…”

    I LOVE that. I think for some people music does the same thing. But yeah, books. :)

    I think blogging is still evolving (in a good way) as a writing medium, but journaling has long been one of the most cherished and valuable forms of writing. :)

    Hear hear! Me too.

  16. Sarah Avatar

    I feel compelled to answer your questions just like I feel compelled to write. Why write? Because I feel confident that I can…because it gives me the ability to see what I say and not (always) regret it. I can backspace, delete, manipulate (muhaha). Let the words bounce into the cracks and fill up the white void. And, yeah, it’s all about the readers (who doesn’t love when somebody ‘gets’ it or laughs at a bit of dialogue you created), but I’m the reader that counts. :)
    .-= • Recent post by Sarah: Snowed-In =-.

  17. Priya Avatar

    i agree with sarah in that i felt compelled. there was a lack of volition about the whole thing. when i was writing my first novel (before i had even begun on the getting published road) i found that it was writing itself in my head whether i wanted it to or not. luckily it found a terrific home and will be published next january. i hope the new one i am writing is equally determined! i think a lot of people write in their heads when they are making coffee or swimming or cleaning or taking a pilates class–don’t they?

  18. Kristan Avatar

    “I’m the reader that counts.”

    I love that!

    Congrats on your book!! That’s fantastic. :D

    And yeah, I used to think people were always writing in their heads, but my (business-minded) boyfriend claims that’s not true…

  19. Torie Michelle Avatar

    I, too, feel compelled to write. But I don’t think that or my belief that I can occasionally make a person smile, laugh, grimace, cry, or concentrate deeply on something s/he had not previously considered in such a way–in other words, this need to manipulate *joins in the evil laugh with Sarah*–matters all that much. Motive = whatever. Process and results = priority.

    In the field of poetry, there seems to be a sense of everyone not needing to be able to “get it.” I try to write in a way that is accessible and ‘heightened’ at the same time. It’s a challenge; I like a good one of those…lol

    Also, there’s the fact that writing is fun. I’m sure almost no mathematician or chemistry major would agree.

    & like Mike, I believe I write better than I speak (unless I’m playing a role).
    .-= • Recent post by Torie Michelle: Word of the Week | 021010 =-.

  20. Meghan Ward Avatar

    I don’t think I can express as eloquently why I write as you did! But I write both for myself and for other people – to educate, to entertain, to share thoughts and feelings and experiences I’ve had – to make people feel less alone because that’s what I used to get out of reading when I was younger – a feeling of connection to the characters, and to the writer behind them. I hope to make someone feel like someone understands them, like they have someone they can relate to, even if it’s a character in a book.

  21. Kristan Avatar

    Torie Michelle-
    Good, because I hate when I don’t “get” poems! Seriously, what’s wrong with being accessible?

    “I hope to make someone feel like someone understands them, like they have someone they can relate to, even if it’s a character in a book.

    {nods} Precisely.