English poet Lord Byron once confessed, “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” Why writers write has always been one of those deep philosophical questions that results in a million unique, and sometime disturbing answers. From a writer's perspective, It is a question that isn't always easy to answer. It is easier to say why we write what we do than it is to say why we write at all.
For some writers, the act of writing alone is an intimate, soul-exposing ritual, during which the writer pours every emotion, triumph, hardship, and heartbreak that they've ever experienced onto the page. Stephen King once described the best kind of writing as being "intimate," and said that all writing, in the end, was about “enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.” But, for other writers, the act can be merely a means to an end, getting from point A in a story to point B.
The world is full of writers from every possible genre. Romance. Science fiction. Mystery, Erotica, Biography. Thrillers. Humor. Social Science. Young Adult. Children. The list goes on and on. Every one has a reason for putting words on a page. The late Terry Pratchett once said that "writing is the most fun you can have by yourself." I'm not sure that I want to know what other things he'd tried by himself before coming to that conclusion.
Why writers write is a question that has come up more than a few times in Wilmington Writers Group meetings, and the answers from the members have been as varied as you would expect. Some have said they do it just for fun, while others use writing as a way to express their thoughts and emotions. We have one member who is diligently working on a non-fiction piece that he hopes will serve to convey his theory to the scientific community. The reasons are as endless as the words that we write.
What many people don't realize is that the act of writing can be strenuous to say the least. It is not as easy as it seems. There is a misconception that it's not all that difficult to sit down and write a piece of fiction. I recently read an article called "The Rule and 12 Tips for Writers and Their Family and Their Friends…" I had to laugh when I came across the third tip, which said, "If you’ve never written a book, assume it’s difficult. Assume it takes years. Assume every decision has pained the writer and each sentence has been fought for. There’s something heroic in the act of writing a book. Be respectful of that before you comment." There is a lot of truth in that statement. Some authors take years to write their first book. I met Christin O'Keefe Aptowizc a few weeks ago, and she said it took fifteen years for her to write and publish Dr. Mutter's Marvels, her biography on medical innovator Dr. Thomas Mutter.
Why do I write? Why do I agonize over every word, and spend hours writing and rewriting just to find the right sentence? Why do I lament over each writing session as if I had just lost a child? Why do I subject myself to the often frustrating task of placing words and phrases together to form a cohesive story? For me, writing has become a compulsion. I'm compelled to write by a physical, mental, and emotional desire to put words on paper (or in reality, on the screen). The act has become as much of a need for me as eating and breathing. And, just as the lack of nourishment and oxygen has negative consequences on me, so does an absence of writing. The consequences often manifest themselves as an intense irritability when I haven't taken time to write, growing worse the longer the absence of writing becomes. Luckily, writing blog posts such as this one helps to quell the "raging beast" within for awhile. Ultimately, to get true satisfaction, I must return to fiction writing. Although I often walk away from each of my writing sessions feeling disappointed in the number of words I was able to write, I do have an inner sense of accomplishment.
For me, I have words inside that must come out. They don't always flow out like I would prefer, but ultimately they get there. I have ideas that I want to express, and images that I want to convey. That may explain why my first career was in radio broadcasting. It gave me an opportunity to use my words to expound on those thoughts, ideas, and images. And, now that I am out of broadcasting, I've turned to writing to fill the void. As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "You don't write because you want to say something; you write because you have something to say."