I’ve often pondered why writers write. The question is a bit metaphysical and I think that the answer would often be ‘because I do,’ followed by a quizzical expression. That in itself says it all. ‘I write because I do’ is essentially saying ‘I write because it’s natural, in the same why as I breathe and I pee and I sleep’. It’s not like saying ‘why do you play football?’ Because the exercise is good for me, because I enjoy the competition, because the game is fun – there are reasons other than ‘I just do’. (I don’t, by the way, play football – it’s merely hypothetical and that’s the way it’ll stay thank you very much.)
I’m sure that some people play football ‘just because’, in the same way that some people write, but I think, for the most part, that it’s different. I’ve heard writers complain (in fact, I’ve complained) about how hard it can be, how there’s so much more than writing to be done, that it’s like bleeding words onto a page and purging your soul. I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t procrastinate when they should be writing (and why procrastinate, if you are doing something you purport to love?) and many writers say that the difficult part is actually starting. So my question is then, why write?
One of the most famous reasons for writing is ‘I’ve got a story in me that’s dying to get out’ or something along those lines. Others say that they write because they’ve got something to say, some commentary on society or politics or religion. Still others want to help people grow and feel emotion. Perhaps their characters have been sat waiting to shine or maybe they have a desire to evoke emotion in others. For me, it’s none of those things. Or rather, it’s all of those things a little bit, but it’s not those things that drive me.
I like a good story but that’s the part of writing I find the hardest: coming up with a decent story with a beginning, middle, and an end. Story arcs baffle me and coming up with a substantial plot is hard. There is no story in me waiting to get out, instead the stories I write are made up as I go along (with the hope that they’ll make sense, have the right amount of pace, enough twists, and keep the reader interested – a lot to hope for from the tips of my fingers, I know!) Funnily enough, that’s how I write everything from books to short stories to blog posts, so maybe that’s just my style. Maybe there really is a story in me waiting to get out and I’m just not conscious of it!
As for the other stuff: writing as a social commentary, wanting to teach something, wanting to evoke emotion – all those things are awesome and I hope that as my writing grows, I can develop each and every one of those and incorporate them into my work. I’m not quite there with it but I will be. I’ve always said that if I had the time and money (and, let’s be honest, enough drive), I would like to do a PhD in Creative Writing and my thesis would be built around how science-fiction and fantasy are used to explore philosophy and ideas that can’t be explored in real life but hey, that idea is for another blog post.
So what, then, drives me to write? Yes, it’s all the aforementioned things but most of all? Most of all it’s words. I love words – new and made-up and old (especially the old). I love to string them together in ways that create music, with rhythm and melody. I like to play with words to see what I can create. I adore alliteration – it’s amazing (see what I did there?). People get songs stuck in their heads but I get words or sentences stuck in mine – they go round and round and round all day long, the same word or phrase. I wake up in the middle of the night with a string of words that I need to write down and from that, I can hopefully grow a tale, or a piece of purple prose, or a bit of dialogue. It’s surprising, given this, that I don’t write more poetry since that’s very wordy – I don’t really have a reason why.
I don’t like music (I know – shocker), I’d much prefer silence, and I wonder now as I write this whether that’s because I’ve got a different kind of music in my head, my own music, a music made of words put together lyrically and rhythmically and (hopefully, at least) beautifully. It’s a passion that evokes so much colour and magic and excitement inside me that I just have to get it down on a page. It drives me and pushes me, even when I’m struggling because yes, it’s hard sometimes – I struggle with story arcs, I’m learning about marketing, I strive to have more substance.
Writing, for me, is about words. They make me smile, they make me laugh, they make sad even. They excite me and calm me, but most of all, I’m in awe of them because let’s be honest, words are awesome! And that is why I write.
Originally published on Riley J’s website, along with reviews, short stories, and general bookish goodness.