I tap the screen of my Surface Pro, opening up yet another writer’s blog asking me to identify why I write. The question evokes pangs of guilt, not to mention a modicum of shame at my inability to answer it. A frown creases my forehead. Other authors seem to have no problem defining their motivation. So, why couldn’t I come up with an acceptable rationale for doing what I do?
One blogging author claims his raison d’etre is the drive for pure creative expression. His stories offer the perfect venue for building other worlds peopled with folk of his conjuring. Yup, I say to myself, that’s a cool reason to write. Maybe I just feel the need to do me some creating.
Another writer vows she writes because she has no choice but to obey an Inner Command to do so. I cock my head at the implied nobility of that statement. Maybe that’s why I write. I DO sometimes feel compelled. No, really. Then I wonder what consequences might befall a writer who ignores the internal commander. Would she expire? Would she explode into unfulfilled bits of gelatinous non-writer? I sigh.
With a grateful heart I read where one blogger admits to purely mercenary motives. Time to get new carpet for the living room? No problem, just whip out a blockbuster. As a retiree living on a clenched-butt fixed income, that thought set off a responsive gong. Perhaps paving a pathway to a gratifying payday is my true motivation after all.
Yet another writer offers details of his writer’s grist borne of pain. His life experiences infuse his writing with angst, his words a therapeutic outlet, a means of exploring and giving voice and depth to his stories. Here was a motive I could sink my teeth into. But although sixty-six years of life has brought the standard ups and downs my way, nothing could compare to the vicissitudes endured by some of the Greats.
Then there is the writer who believes he has important information for the world. Words of wisdom, or answers to the mysteries of the human condition. And there are indeed those writers whose words change the course of history. But alas, pleased to un-dangle participles and duct-tape split infinitives back together, I don’t even aspire to saying anything of such magnitude.
One woman suggests her writing career began upon reading a book that, in her opinion, was sub-par. After her initial disbelief that something so poorly written was published by one of the Big Four, she decided she could do better. And maybe she did. Any writer will confess to head-scratching after perusing some of the stuff that finds its way into print. Maybe this could be my reason. Then my hard-nosed internal editor sends up snarky questions on the quality of my own writing. Was my plot tight enough? Did my dialogue sing? Should I have included at least one scene of graphic sex? Or horror of horrors, did my characters behave uncharacteristically? Although the exercise of critically analyzing my writer’s modus operandi proved beneficial, it got me no nearer to answering The Question.
An endless list of possibilities played leapfrog across the silver screen of my mind. Perhaps I write to give the finger to those high school chums who snubbed me. Or maybe to prove to my college history professor that the “C” she awarded my essay was unwarranted. Or perhaps I feel the need to justify my mother’s never-flagging faith in my abilities, while jabbing a finger in my dad’s eye for suggesting I get a real job.
I cringe. Did my inability to name the tune to which my writer dances signify a lack of imagination – an incipient death knell to fiction writing? Or was I over-thinking this whole thing? Might it be acceptable to the august ranks of stratified writing royalty to admit that I just want someone to read and enjoy my stories? And when it comes right down to it, how much do I really care what other writers might think of my reasons for putting fingers to keyboard? Wasn’t any reason acceptable?
So, by the time the self-doubting, self-castigating, and reflection was said and done, I’ve arrived at a couple of conclusions: Sometimes I write for all of the above reasons, and sometimes for none of them. Mostly I just write because I want to. And that’s good enough for me.