A good friend of mine asked me to contribute a short piece for a column she was writing about what motivates writers to write. I often like to start with a quote from someone more famous, and articulate than myself. I happily Googled away and discovered that writers write a great deal about writing (big surprise). In fact, I collected so many great quotes that ... well you'll see

Why Do We Write?

Sam Johnson said “nobody but a blockhead ever wrote except for money”1 but then he also said,a man who exposes himself when he is intoxicated, has not the art of getting drunk.”2 Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to a writer--and if so, why? 3

Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.4

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.5 All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.6 The only reason for being a professional writer is that you just can't help it. 7

Perhaps it would be better not to be a writer, but if you must, then write. If all feels hopeless, if that famous 'inspiration' will not come, write. If you are a genius, you'll make your own rules, but if not - and the odds are against it - go to your desk no matter what your mood, face the icy challenge of the paper - write.8 The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.9

 Beware of self-indulgence. The romance surrounding the writing profession carries several myths: that one must suffer in order to be creative; that one must be cantankerous and objectionable in order to be bright; that ego is paramount over skill; that one can rise to a level from which one can tell the reader to go to hell. These myths, if believed, can ruin you. If you believe you can make a living as a writer, you already have enough ego.10 A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down...If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book, nothing can help him.11

Fundamentally, all writing is about the same thing; it's about dying, about the brief flicker of time we have here, and the frustration that it creates.12  A writer without interest or sympathy for the foibles of his fellow man is not conceivable as a writer.13It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all [the writer] can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.14 The measure of artistic merit is the length to which a writer is willing to go in following his own compulsions.15

No fathers or mothers think their own children ugly; and this self-deceit is yet stronger with respect to the offspring of the mind.16  Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.17 No tale is so good...but can be spoilt in the telling18 and everything that is written merely to please the author is worthless.19

I firmly believe every book was meant to be written.20 Except that books aren't written, they're rewritten. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.21

I never want to see anyone, and I never want to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to write,22because If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.23

 1Samuel Johnson, 2Samuel Johnson, 3Bennett Cerf, 4Stephen King, 5Somerset Maugham, 6George Orwell, 7Leo Rosten, 8J. B. Priestly, 9Mary Heaton Vorse, 10David Brin, 11Edna St. Vincent Millay, 12Mordecai Richler, 13Joseph Conrad, 14William Faulkner,15John Updike, 16Miguel de Cervantes, 17Mark Twain, 18Terence -160 BC, 19Blaise Pascal, 20Marchette Chute, 21Michael Crichton, 22P. G. Wodehouse, 23Toni Morrison
 (
with a title and twelve incidental words by James H. Nicholson)

HOME
1st Person Exceptional

Why Do We Write?

 
 
 
 
 
HOME