WHY DO WE WRITE?

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.

writers eyeglasses - Copy

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?

romance novel - Copy

OR

Push

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.

This Bridge Called My Back - Copy

 

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

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14 thoughts on “WHY DO WE WRITE?

    1. I understand totally, Yvonne. I have a tee-shirt with this message written on it. “Writer’s block is when the characters in your head stop speaking to you.”
      Thanks for reading my blog.

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  1. Great article on why we write, Renee. Also, I appreciated the bit of humor pointed toward us retirees: Maybe you need to avoid pointing your cursor toward Ancestry.com is one rabbit hole we frequently go down at our house! LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your comment, Anna.

      Ancestry really gobbles up time, doesn’t it Anna? One moment you’re searching for your great-great-grandfather’s date and place of birth. Five hours and a meal later you’re still searching. Of course, you’ve discovered your great-grandmother AND your grandmother were both married three times. Then you have to send an email to your sister, because if you don’t you’ll forget to tell her during your next phone call. And so it goes.

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  2. Renee, I think this is a question we all ask ourselves from time to time. Why do I write? One reason is because I never saw people like me (a butch woman) in the books that I read.

    I have a poem in the Our Happy Hours anthology. Looking forward to seeing it in print!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi middleagebutch,

      I overstand the reason you write. Thirty years ago it was so difficult to find fiction written by or about lesbians of color, butch or femme. One day I stumbled upon “Loving Her,” by Ann A. Shockley. Thank God! I wasn’t the only one! Going through life with only a sliver of your identity is a hardship. After a while you become invisible to yourself.

      I’m glad one of your poems is in the anthology. I’m looking forward to seeing it in print as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Also being a writing retiree, I seem to be busier now than when I ‘worked’. As for the ‘e” question – press down on the letter on your keyboard and you get a choice of accented ‘e’s. (This works on Apple devices anyway.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading my blog, Jen. And thanks for the suggestion regarding the “e.” I plan to try it nearer the end of this “busy, busy retiree” day.

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    1. Indeed you may, Lee! I’ll bet you can add a dozen more reasons for writing. Thanks for reading the blog.

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  4. Ha! Got such a kick out of this. And ask myself this very question all the time. Wrote a blog about it myself some years back. Interviewed a bunch of authors. My favorite response came from a guy I knew who wrote and completed novels though never tried to get them published. He said: “I write because when I do, I get along better with my wife.” Ha! As good a reason as any, I say. Thanks for posting.

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  5. Hi Renee, sorry for jumping in so late. I have always been forthright in my objective to showcase lesbians and the LGBTQ community as complete humans in my work. Your comments about world events were particularly meaningful. The proliferation of hate in our society, pushing back against minority communities and our rights, gained through struggle and strife, is something that has taken over my work. The entertaining LM is still here, I just can’t ignore the injustice that hits my heart right now.

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  6. You are not alone, LM. Caring for my aged mother, mourning her loss, and dealing with the unreality of the current White House occupant have made it difficult for me to meet new fictional characters and be open to wherever they’ll lead. I am grateful for the opportunity to blog here and for Andi’s and Jove’s patience when my essays stray from the topic of writing. I have to believe there are more fair-minded Americans than there are racist/homophobic/immigrant-phobic ones. I hope you continue refusing to “ignore the injustice that hits [your] heart right now.” Peace, my friend.

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