Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why I Write: Because at one time I was a child

October 20th was the National Day on Writing Project (who knew?) which explains the number of posts on twitter with the hashtag #whyIwrite . 

The fact that I did not discover this until October 23rd perhaps reveals more than I would like about my dedication to writing. When I read tweets like, "Because I would suffocate if I didn't" , "To nudge the world in a different direction"  I feel like a weekend runner at the Olympic marathon event.

I don't write thinking I will make millions of dollars and become the next J.K. Rowlings. I'm fascinated and encouraged by the fact that writers of classics like Ivanhoe, Little Women and Huck Finn unabashedly said they did it for the money. Encouraged because it means you do not have to have a muse on your shoulder or a compulsion to write before you can tell a good story. Fascinated because I look at writing fiction as the last thing I would do to make money. I have a job I like that pays well and for me to make the same amount as a writer, I'd need to be in the top .1% I think.  It's not that I make such an incredible amount of money, but rather that most writers make little from their work. Those that do earn a lot spend hours every day in self-promotion  -  I can tell by their twitter stream, blogs and Facebook. There's nothing wrong with that, but I don't have any desire to do it. It bores me just thinking about it.

Why do I write then? A tweet by Steampunk said it well,
"I write because there are stories I want to read that haven't been written yet."

This morning, I was thinking about Lad: A dog - a book I read when I was probably eight or nine years old. If I had ever taken a course in children's literature, I would have learned that this was not a very well-written book. Since I was just a kid, I liked it. I liked all of the Oz books, too, and hundreds of other books I read in grade school. Let's just white-wash over it by saying that my childhood was less than idyllic. Nearly all of the happy memories I have are of me curled up in an attic, sitting cross-legged in a basement, laying in the grass in the park - reading a book.

For a child, adolescent or young adult with a difficult life, the best book doesn't have more horrors and graphic violence.  They see enough of that in real life. All of my books, in the end, evil dies and good endures. In between, there are challenges overcome, magic happens and some close calls but nothing irreparably terrible happens to any character you have come to care about. It's good for a young person to get lost for an hour in a world like that, and come out of it thinking that perhaps real life could be this way.

When I grew up, I found that, in fact, it can. I think that was an idea I got from the books I read. So that is why I write.


  1. A lot of people wrote very "powerful" #whyiwrite Tweets, and while I'm sure their feelings were genuine, I'm largely with you. And I was very happy that you shared your reason here! Talking to and reading other writers is always very interesting for me.

  2. Thanks, Jennifer! Sometimes I feel like I must have missed the day at school where they announced that writing is unlike every other human endeavor and you can't just do it for fun, or when you have time around your day job, that you MUST WRITE OR DIE.

    I've never been too hot on the starving writer in the attic idea, either. I like steak, and occasionally blackened sashimi. Starving - not so much.