S.G. Browne

FAQs: To Write Or Not To Write

“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.”
— George Orwell

I came across this quote, and some of the concepts that follow, in Jeff VanderMeer’s Booklife. Covering topics from managing goals to networking to maintaining peace of mind, Booklife is a fabulous resource on how to survive as a writer in today’s world. Even if you haven’t had a book published, it’s got a lot of great content for all stages of the writing career and just the challenge of being a writer.

One of the sections from Booklife that inspired me to write this is a short segment on “Reasons to Write.”  Why writers do what they do. What drives them. Why they spend hours alone in front of a computer making up imaginary stories about imaginary people.

There are a number of answers that you often hear, all of which, as a writer, I understand:

Because I can’t not write.
Because I love bringing something to life.
Because I want to share my enthusiasm with others.

I write for all of the reasons above. But mostly I write because it keeps me sane. When I’m not writing, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing and so I’m not as content. I don’t sleep as well. I get more easily frustrated. I get grumpy. And nobody likes a grumpy writer.

But I also write because I want to recapture the pleasure of reading. I want to experience what I feel when I read a good book. I want to to get caught up in the story so that the world outside of the pages ceases to exist. And I want to share that experience with others.

In addition to his quote above, Orwell said he wrote for several reasons:

1. Sheer egotism
2. Aesthetic enthusiasm
3. Historical impulse
4. Political purpose

Orwell freely admits that egotism is a factor in his writing and he believes it’s inherent in all writers. I tend to agree. I don’t believe you can be a writer, particularly one who hopes to be published, without a certain amount of conceit. After all, when you’ve written something and you have the opinion that others would enjoy reading it, how can ego not play a part?

Of course, that’s just my perspective. So I thought I’d get a few others.

Below are quotes from a handful (including the thumb) of other writers who were kind enough to share their thoughts on why they write.  (To learn more about the authors or their books, just click on the photos or their names):

Amelia Beamer (Author of The Loving Dead):
Every sentence is an attempt to tell a story. Every story is a way to make sense of the randomness in the world.

Jonathan Maberry (NY Times bestselling author of The Dragon Factory and Patient Zero):
I write because there have always been stories in my head. When I was little, before I could spell, I’d tell stories with toys. I think in stories. Characters speak in my head all the time. For non-writers this is a serious concern and medical attention might be required; for writers it’s all those stories aching to be told.

James Melzer (Author of Escape: A Zombie Chronicles Novel):
I write because when I was a kid, Stephen King used to come into my bedroom every night to tell me tales about vampires and haunted hotels, scaring the crap out of me. I want to be able to do that through my own stories, and make a living out of it at the same time. So far, so good. It really is the best job in the world.

Jeff VanderMeer (Author of Booklife and Finch):
I don’t actually know why I write now, except that if I don’t write for awhile I get restless and antsy and feel like I am at loose ends. In a sense, I wind up not knowing who I am after awhile. When I started writing it was in part an escape from a family situation that was unhappy, but I think even then there was something else. Writing makes me happy. I was “borned” into it, maybe.

F. Paul Wilson (NY Times bestselling author of the Repairman Jack series):
I’ve been asked this many times and I can’t think of a better answer than: What makes you think I have a choice? For me it’s not art, it’s not examining or defining the human condition, it’s not self expression, it’s love. I love fanciful stories–love conceiving them, love constructing them, and can’t imagine life without telling them.

Filed under: The Writing Life — Tags: , , , , — S.G. Browne @ 5:32 am