Why do you have to write?

Ask a writer why they write, and they’ll usually say ‘because I have to’. Or some variant.

1195430130203966891liftarn_Writing_My_Master_s_Words_svg_medWhat isn’t usually said is why they have to. There are, I suppose, as many reasons as there are writers.

But I figure there are several broad categories. For some it is a calling; a way to communicate what they feel to others. They are impelled to write – and often it doesn’t matter too much what it is they’re writing.

For others, writing is secondary to another interest – a vehicle by which that interest can be expressed.

Or it could be as simple as a pastime. One that, unlike most pastimes, carries potential to become more, if it’s done right.

Others write because it’s their vocation; they’re journalists, technical writers and so forth. But (mostly) it’s still rewarding. Mostly.

What impels you to write?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014

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28 comments on “Why do you have to write?

  1. I’ve always loved good stories. Now, I do my best to craft them. Additionally, as a skilled swordsman wields a sword, a skilled wordsman brandishes words. I want to brandish words. It’s…well, I find it fun.

  2. winterbayne says:

    I’m compelled. I wrote poetry in school that was published, then did journalism jobs before university. All the while I’ve kept a personal journal up to this day. I write lists and random descriptions. I’ve had blogs off and on about various subjects.

    I’m not an expressive person. Not emotional. After I found out I was dyslexic, I thought maybe it helped me straighten out what was in my head. Maybe I think too much of my own words.

    Whatever it is, I can’t stop. I’ll always be writing something.

    • I’ve always written, since I was a kid and figure I’ll always be writing something. I write every day. I’m intrigued when you say you’re dyslexic. I find an awful lot of writers are dyslexic – and I think it’s because the thinking that goes with it is conceptual-image based, which is exactly what’s needed for writing. Of course there are challenges. For myself, I can read OK, but I tangle numbers up all the time and have terrible trouble keeping letters in the right order when typing. It’s not that I don’t know how the words are spelt, I just can’t seem to get them out correctly. I guess it adds up to dyslexia of a form.

  3. jjspina says:

    Good post, Matthew. One that makes a writer think about why he/she writes.

    I write because I can’t help myself! Lol! I feel joy and fulfillment when I express myself on paper or computer. There are so many words jumping around inside my head that I can’t get them out fast enough! I feel it is a gift that I am grateful for and will use until I can’t physically write any more. Some times I have to do rewrites but there are always more words stepping forward when I cross others out!

    I am having so much fun writing children’s books and want to start writing for the middle school grades.

    You are an exemplary writer, instructor and blogger. I am learning from your posts. I thank you for that, my friend!

    • Thank you! *blush* Writing for all the reasons you mention is what writing is about. And why we write. It IS a gift. Not everybody has the temperament or urge. And it is so good to be able to bring enjoyment to others through words. All the best for the expansion of your writing genres! Sounds very exciting. And challenging. But challenges are good!

  4. cheisserer says:

    When I was younger I had a difficulty communicating with my family and friends. With mental illness running in the family, I also had a difficult time getting my opinion out, and making sense of the sometimes chaotic discussions. So at a very young age, I decided to write things out. It’s more than a pastime, more than a secondary, more than a communication of what I feel. It’s quite a bit more that I write to piece together what had been said or done in the past, even years later, while working out some parallel situation in the present.

    If that makes sense. Plus, my subconscious mind likes to bubble up some amazing things while I sleep, and darn it all if I shouldn’t use it as inspiration. :)

    And, is that a pic of Dante? I think I’d know that nose anywhere. (not that he actually HAD that nose. I watched some special documentary that he actually looked like an average Italian)

    • You make absolute sense. And the subconscious is a fertile source of inspiration. All this is where great writers come from! Writing from the heart, from what you feel yourself. Hemingway said it best – ‘you sit at the typewriter and bleed’. Keep at it.

      Apropos the picture – it’s a public domain image I picked up from a Google search, I’m not sure exactly who it’s meant to be. Dante – quite likely. The period’s right.

  5. Nina Kaytel says:

    In High School I had to interview a writer for a newspaper article, I asked him why do you write and he told me simply ‘because I had a story’ of course I fled in tears because the guy was mean, but he had a point — a point echo. I started writing because I had a story, I kept writing because of a story, and will continue to write because I have stories.

    • It’s the essence of writing – telling things. True of all writing, too. Really it’s ‘Writing to convey an emotion’. It’s a powerful driving force. And a good one.

  6. Let’s see, off the top of my head all of the following apply: because my imagination would burst my skull if I didn’t empty it, because it’s therapy, because crafting a tale fulfills a desire to create, because it’s how I best communicate….

  7. Lemuel says:

    Usually, I write to share with others. Storytelling is rewarding – be it around the campfire, over a pint, on the big screen or through a blog or book. Whatever the medium I like to make people laugh and try to encourage them to develop new interests in the world around them or look at things differently. I suspect that if I lived ten thousand years ago then I would have been the guy sitting around the fire telling the clan about the time that Bob was chased by the bear but survived by whacking two clubs together to scare it away, sharing the cautionary tale of the great flash flood that swept away the fishing party or scaring the children with a story about the great sea monsters that live in the lake.

    There are so many mediums to tell stories in the twenty-first century, we really are spoiled for choice, but writing seems to me to be the most liberating. I was drawn to the big lights of television and film, which can certainly be a lot of fun, but writing is something that I want to keep practicing and developing. Something I can do on my own and at my own pace. Not with any fixed goal in mind, I just want to share stories.

    • And sharing stories around the camp fire is where it all began, back in the chillier realms of the Pleistocene. It remains the essence of writing – one of the keystones that defines us. You’re right. We live in such a rich age now to tell those stories, through so many media.

  8. I started writing to create back stories for RPG characters back in the late 70′s and early 80′s. Then it dawned on me that a longer piece with additional detail and a plot might be fun. Little did I know what i was getting myself into. One thing has led to another bringing me to this point.

    • My own rpg at about the same time caused much the same thing. A flurry of world building followed by a flurry of more writing to memorialise the adventures. All part of that writers treasure box now. But part of the writing journey… Probably worth a good many writers XP and maybe a level up.

  9. EagleAye says:

    I often feel like I am a conduit for stories that are waiting to emerge. I feel a pressure and an urge and I start writing. It’s the only way to relieve that pressure. Often times my characters do things I didn’t expect or plan on. It seems as though they were alive beforehand and I am simply opening the door to let them out. I have a very active imagination. It’s something like owning a very active dog. You can keep the dog indoors all the time and he won’t die, but eventually he’ll ill with peculiar maladies. The best thing for the dog is to take him outside and let him run as much as he wants. I guess that’s why I write, so I can run as much as I want.

  10. KM Huber says:

    I have just been exploring this idea, once again. Honestly, it feels as if I have explored it for most of my life, and as I age, the reason I write seems to shift. Not too long ago, I ran across this quote on Sigrun’s blog; it is from Mary Ruefle’s “On Secrets”:

    I used to think I wrote because there was something I wanted to say. Then I thought, ‘I will continue to write because I have not yet said what I wanted to say’; but I know now I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.

    I am definitely in the latter stage–hearing what I have been listening to–thus, the how and what I write is also changing. As you know, I have been exploring this for awhile and find it fascinating. Regardless, I cannot imagine my life without writing. For me, it provides a whole other dimension. Great post, Matthew!
    Karen

    • I think you’re right. The reasons why we write must (and perhaps should) change through time – grow as we grow both as people and as writers. Thinking about it, I wonder if the act of writing creates a direction and impetus for that growth?

  11. quirkybooks says:

    I write because I have a huge passion for it, I was born to do it, it is my purpose in life, and there is nothing that makes me more happy than to write. I live and breathe writing and am at my happiest when I write. If I could write 24/7 I would. I have to have my guineapigs by my side too. They are very inspirational.

  12. […] week, M J Wright asked his readers, “Why do You Have to Write?” and Christian Mihai blogged about “The Process“. Both are wonderful pieces, and […]

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