I found myself in an interesting conversation recently which essentially boiled down to ‘Why Write?’
I don’t mean ‘Why Write’ as in, why bother doing the activity at all, but rather, what are the motivations behind writing? What should the motivations be and are they all equally valid?
Advice I once read was ‘Write for yourself first’ This isn’t some nugget of ancient wisdom. I am sure you have heard the same worded in many different variations from a plethora of sources, but I think it’s worth examining.
The concept is simple. If you write for yourself, if your goal is to enjoy the process, it doesn’t matter what happens at the end. Don’t write what you think other people want. Don’t write what you think is popular. Write what you want, try and make the process the goal rather than the result.
It makes sense, right? And I certainly took it to heart. The choices I have made with my novel boiled down to writing the kind of story I like. I like shape-shifting as a theme so the characters are were-foxes. I prefer female protagonists. I toned down some of the elements to try and increase the appeal but ultimately, I took a route that I knew would turn some people off. An approach that some people would find too weird to consider reading.
So, I took that advice right? I was writing for myself. That was the answer to ‘Why Write?’
Like most things, it’s more complicated than that. Now that I’ve reached the second draft and the core process of writing moves on to editing, I can start to examine that answer. Why Write? Was I really only writing for myself?
Before I started writing seriously I spent a lot of time drawing. Like many people, I have a creative streak and originally art had been my main outlet. Unfortunately, I have a condition called aphantasia and despite making great strides, I struggled to get good enough to get any real attention. Sure, I wanted to become better for my own satisfaction, but even when you are proud of your own work, I think we all want the acknowledgement of others. Art in a vacuum feels wasted. You ultimately want to entertain and I cannot help but be disappointed when a piece I am proud of receives no response.
My natural disadvantages do not really manifest in the same way when writing. I decided I was going to pursue that instead. I did set out following that advice, to write first for myself, but can I really be satisfied with my own self-entertainment. Is it okay for my work to exist in a vacuum?
In my cse, I’m not sure it is. I took that original lesson to heart. I wrote the kind of story I would like to read using themes that I enjoy, but I still want it to be a success. I think hearing people enjoyed it would mean more to me that any financial boon it might bring. Perhaps that’s a sign of a shallow heart, a need for approval that stems from a psychological flaw, but it is who I am and if there is anything we cannot deny, we each are who we are.
In the end, there are multiple reasons that I write and some reasons matter more than others, but I think it’s interesting to ask yourself that question. So, Everyone. Tell me. Why do you write?