Why do writers write? Why do we subject ourselves to endless hours of self-imposed exile from family members, friends, phone calls, Facebook posts, CNN’s breaking news, and our Twitter feeds?
There are probably as many answers to these two questions as there are writers tapping on their computer’s keys right this minute. What follows are a few answers I’ve heard writers give when asked what motivates them to create.
I can’t stop myself from writing. It’s something I’m compelled to do. Once I begin writing a story, the characters and plot possibilities fire through my imagination 24/7.
This reason sounds valid, especially for those authors who are able to write a book every twelve months or so. They experience “idea comets” that flash through their sleep deprived minds in the middle of the night, or better yet, while they’re horizontal in the dentist’s chair, mouth open, fists clenched as the dentist begins his/her first approach with the drill. Compulsive writers take a vow to never be without a notebook and a favorite pen, because ideas have a way of popping up completely unannounced.
I don’t write for myself. I write to entertain my readers. Writing for others is my way of being altruistic.
Some time ago I heard an acquaintance soundly reject the existence of altruism.
“Altruistic people don’t exist. They might fool themselves into believing they’re doing a deed to help others, but they’re really doing it in order to feel good about themselves,” he opined.
When my acquaintance said this to me, I wanted to object. I thought about Mother Theresa, Dr. Tom Dooley, and people who adopt children with disabilities. Weren’t they altruists? What about all the retirees who donate their time doing volunteer work? [Spoiler alert! Self-aggrandizing segment ahead!] Oh, that’s right. Those retirees (I) feel they’re (I’m) a better person every time they (I) give a few hours a week volunteering (at a local hospital.)
Most writers want to offer enjoyment to their readers. But let’s inject a bit of honesty here. Writers enjoy certain literary genres more than others and they’d rather create stories representative of their favored genres.
Your readers tell you they want you to write another romance novel. Meanwhile, you’re so preoccupied with today’s realities that you can’t seem to find the impetus to write a romance. Your head just isn’t there. What you really enjoy writing is general dramatic fiction. Do you decide to write for your loyal readership or for yourself?
I write because I’ve always wanted to earn my living as a published author.
Who among us hasn’t desired Toni Morrison’s or Lisa Scottoline’s royalty checks? I’m certain a percentage of authors do sustain themselves with the proceeds from their books, but I’ll wager it’s a very small percentage. While it’s possible for writers to earn a lot of money, a scenario more likely to occur is the one I experienced during my sophomore year in college when I announced I’d decided to support myself by becoming a poet.
“I think you should explore other career options while you’re earning your degree,” my mother declared.
Her unsolicited advice fired from her mouth with the speed of a race car at the Indy 500. She must have thought my decision to be a poet made as much sense as planning to major in animal husbandry and then becoming a shepherdess.
I’m motivated to write because now that I’m retired I have plenty of time to do it.
First, your time here is not infinite. Second, if you’re retired, you know there’s never enough time to do everything you’ve planned to accomplish. Maybe you do most things more slowly than you used to. Maybe you’re easily distracted and you’ve shaved minutes from your attention span. Maybe you need to avoid pointing your cursor toward Ancestry.com, at least until you’ve finished writing a first chapter…or an opening sentence.
Writing is my contribution to today’s resistance movement. Poems, novels, essays, blogs have the power to influence opinions regarding our nation’s current brand of leadership. Our words can inspire our readers to continue resisting the illogical, unethical, untruthful, and unconstitutional path being sown right now.
We writers recall certain novels we’ve read, poems that have touched us so deeply we can recite them from memory, and biographies and essays that influenced our beliefs and stamped impressions upon our hearts. Written words command a high price, especially if those words speak of the value and possibilities inherent in every person. Bound between a book’s covers, pages of cogently written words are expensive in today’s market of cheap reality shows, poorly arranged comb-overs, and a head of state/whispy hair who cannot, for the life of him, utter a complete sentence.
Many of us write poems, blogs, short fiction, and novels because we aspire to touch readers. We believe everyone is a person of value. Everyone has possibilities. We don’t earn a heck of a lot of money from our book sales. But we know money is simply one measure of our success. Stamping an impression upon our readers’ hearts and minds is another measure.
Dear readers, keep reading. Dear writers, continue writing.
Renee Bess is the author of five novels published by Regal Crest Enterprises. She and Lee Lynch, her co-story collector, are eagerly awaiting the Fall, 2017 debut of their anthology, OUR HAPPY HOURS – LGBT VOICES FROM THE GAY BARS. Renee is equally eager to learn how to type the accent mark that should be placed above the second “e” in her first name. What’s the secret?
Renee’s website addy: http://www.reneebess.com