Sixty second writing tips: writing’s not for the fame

I am fairly sure that most of us write because we have to. It is a passion – a calling.

My Adler Gabrielle 25 - on which I typed maybe a million words in the 1980s.
My Adler Gabrielle 25 – on which I typed maybe a million words in the 1980s.

For most writers fame is a by-product and not really wanted. Personally I find it embarrassing to be recognised. I never know what to say – and hey, writing is just stuff I do. It’s nothing special.

But some people do write because it gives them a burst of lime-light – or, in the case of non-fiction, because they gain status within narrow peer groups. This last is how universities seem to work.

As far as I am concerned, craving fame – or status – is the wrong reason to write. I suspect that most authors who write as a device for fame usually aren’t, themselves, necessarily good writers. Non-fiction authors who write to validate their personal worth through perceived status in their field usually end up embittered, viciously attacking others they think have the status they want themselves.

All these are the wrong reasons to write. The right ones? Because it is a calling; because it is a passion. Because it’s fun. Because it’s important. Because you have to.

Because through writing you can give something intangible to somebody else. Make their life better. Knowledge – reading pleasure – enjoyment. Being able to give something in this way, surely, is where writers should be aiming.

What do you figure? And why do you write?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013

Coming up: ‘Write it now’, more writing tips, more geekery. Watch this space.


16 thoughts on “Sixty second writing tips: writing’s not for the fame

  1. I write because I love words and I love expressing ideas. I also write because it helps me to make sense of the world around me – therapy on the page. If others read what I write and get some enjoyment out of my stories, are entertained, or if I make them think, then that’s a nice bonus.

    If I didn’t write, I think I’d be a little ticking time bomb waiting to find somewhere to explode!

    1. Me too. Writing’s an essential activity! And it’s true – we write first for ourselves, albeit often in ways that others can share and from which they can derive their own emotional journey.

  2. I agree with this part: “Non-fiction authors who write to validate their personal worth through perceived status in their field usually end up embittered, viciously attacking others they think have the status they want themselves.”

    For me, now, writing is trying to find my voice in another language. It’s a whole different experience than you think. If your thinking is still in another language, your writing may surprise you!

    1. That is an extraordinary challenge – finding your voice in a new language. I’ve often pondered this; are our thoughts guided by the way each language works? And do we express ourselves differently in different languages? I’d be interested in your thoughts on that.

      1. I’ve written a little bit about this in:

        I think (based on guys like Wittgenstein) that without language we don’t have thinking, thoughts are propositions.
        I also think that a whole nation’s culture is depicted in the language. So when you are thinking with another language (if you are doing it correctly, using correct structure of the language), you are somehow thinking in that culture. It might even change your system of values.
        And I think that we might express ourselves differently in different language. At least, I know I can express some of my feelings (or states of mind) more easily in English, because there are specific words with backgrounds. Or for example, some mystic stuff can be better expressed in Chinese than any other language.
        I guess the potential of a language due to its history and its vocabulary is one of the reasons that there are for example more great philosophers coming from German speaking countries than any other parts of the world.

        1. I agree. My teacher in these matters was Austrian. Peter Munz, who I believe witnessed the Popper Wittgenstein poker incident. I studied post-grad under Munz but have to admit that a lot of what he said didn’t make sense to me until later. A lot later, as in years.

    1. Absolutely..and it’s true even for those of us who don’t write fiction. Writing, I think, adds a dimension for the lives of writers…and those who don’t write probably don’t ‘get’ that idea so easily.

  3. I have tried not writing and the emptiness was too much. In my later years, my writing is more nonfiction as is my reading, and I admit that I am more comfortable than I ever was with fiction. Perhaps what one writes–I started out writing poetry–changes as one ages. That has been true for me. A most thoughtful post as always, Matthew.

    1. Thank you! I completely identify with the emptiness of not writing – I couldn’t imagine not writing, in fact. From this perspective I don’t draw distinction between fiction and non-fiction, or any other form of writing; all of it represents an expression of our thoughts, and all of it takes both the author and reader on an emotional journey.

  4. I write because I feel compelled to usually. Sometimes there’s just a story there and it needs to come out. Other times, I get asked to write stories down.

    Thanks for a great post, a nice break from the novel I’m currently reading, and the ability to put things in perspective.

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