The top 10 reasons writers write

Why do writers write? Why do sculptors chisel stone? Why do fish swim? 

I doubt that if you ask any dedicated writer, they’ll tell you they write “for the money!” Most of us realize that writing will most likely not make us rich (unless of course, your name is J.K. Rowling). But it WILL feed the “fire in the belly”—the passion that drives us. 

In speaking to other writers and eavesdropping on a number of author posts, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 reasons writers write, check it out:

Why do writers write?

1. To live. Writing is a source of life—a basic need to express oneself. It is what keeps us up at night.

2. To feel connected. To feel grounded. To feel centred.

3. To inform, educate, and give an audience something to enjoy.

4. To understand and be understood. To learn, and to heal—for the pen is mightier than the sword.

5. To rid the brain of “voices” (we writers do have a certain someone whispering in our ears, a muse perhaps).

6. To leave a legacy and make a mark in the world.

7. To be able to tell everyone they’re a writer (because writer’s are cool)

8. To give birth to a cast of characters and travel to far away places.

9. For the fun of it.

10. To live forever. To achieve immortality through the written words left behind… a bit vampish, yes.

According to Doris Lessing, writing is a delicious compulsion–one that perhaps only fellow writers can truly understand. And so, the sun rises. The grass grows. The stars come out at night. Bats fly. And I write. 

Fellow restless writers, why do YOU write?



Filed under Inspiration, Life and stuff

8 responses to “The top 10 reasons writers write

  1. Walter

    Writing, at least the type I do, feels like checking my pulse. Pressing two fingers against the side of my throat and hoping that something presses back, saying “hey, hey, stop, stop, yes, yes, glub, glub…”

    I find that I write to prove I am really alive. Like if I didn’t occasionally write a song or verse, or even an entire treatment for a sequel to a comedy film, I would somehow have no recollection or proof that I ever felt anything at all, or ever had a creative thought that wasn’t fleeting.

    I write it down before the glory of the spark goes poof and evaporates into smoke. I have written many songs only to forget from where the inspiration stemmed or even that I wrote them down. Thank goodness for paper and ink and electrons on shiny metal platters. For without them, I’d be without any reminders at all.

    Nothing makes me feel better than when I am in the middle of writing a song or poem. I suppose I do it for the thrill – the thrill of the big, awesome, imaginary applause that goes off in the cavern of my mind when the right words come together and fall onto the white space before me – alive, raw and beating like a heart that won’t go quietly.

    Even this, writing a comment here, has a thrill waiting for me just before I hit “Submit”. While the flashing cursor reminds me to check my pulse now.

  2. restlesswriters

    Loved your “pulse” comment, Walter.

    I wouldn’t say that I write “for the money,” but I do write for a living. In both my full-time and part-time lives, writing is what I do. Sure, communications and indexing are highly specialized kinds of writing, but each involves the use of written language to convey information to an audience.

    But beyond my writing-for-a-living writing, I write to play “what if.” What if you quit your job and followed your heart to the other side of the country? What if you were so deep in debt you literally had to sell your first-born? What if you came across a homeless woman who was living at the library? What if your best friend died—and it was all your fault?

    I write dark little stories about individuals and the actions they take to satisfy their compulsions. By playing “what if”, I get to explore the daydreams, fantasies and nightmares that people keep hidden from the rest of the world. Maybe that’s my way of connecting–knowing that we all have that dark side, and knowing that art is a safe place to explore it.


  3. bjas

    Something of interest: 7 Reasons Inspiration Matters to Writers…

  4. Lori

    This is a good topic – I had to sit and let things percolate for a bit.

    I’ve always had to write, regardless of the venue or topic: I’m a prolific list maker; I used to write crib notes before talking to a boy on the phone in high school; and I’m still journaling my son’s baby book (he’s now seven).

    In terms of creative writing, I do it mainly to deal with the voices/ideas/turns of phrase that are ricocheting inside my head. It’s usually for a piece I’m currently working on—for work, my manuscript or a shorter essay. Every so often, it becomes something that I didn’t even realize I was needed to be working on (like this post…sometimes it all needs to percolate before it breaks the surface).

    If I have something on my mind that is bubbling to the surface, I’ll go about my day (or week…or month…) absent-minded and muttering randomly to myself, until I take a moment to jot it all down. If I don’t ‘let it out’, I feel stifled and cranky. Once it’s down on paper, I feel clear and unburdened. Sometimes it turns out to be nothing, but more often than not, it’s the genesis of something good.

    Is this the sign of a true writer or latent mental incapacitation? Only time will tell…

  5. bjas

    More on why writers write… what writers see:

    Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.
    – Orson Scott Card

  6. bjas

    We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.
    – Somerset Maugham

  7. bjas

    We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.
    – Anais Nin

    • Walter

      I agree with that last comment about retrospection. Unless you are being totally fictional in your writing (which I believe is impossible in the absolute sense) then retrospection is almost the rule since even invented scenarios and planned events are based on the past experience of each of us.

      The great part is that through writing we can pass along our individual moments of existence to one another, saving each of us from having to live through them just to sense each of them “twice”.

      It saves time and makes for a colourful world of life paths that can be shared in parallel. We can be retrospective about lives we never lived, “tasting life” from others’ retropectives. And, from those, generate plans for ourselves and our characters.

      Never look back? Yeah, right. That’s the only way to know where to go next, or what to write next too. You have to draw from the past to create your future, even if its only imagined.

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