Why Do Writers Write?

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This probably sounds like a silly question, considering we could ask the same thing of people in all walks of life. Naturally I have my own reasons for wanting to write and I’ve come across other writers’ answers during TV interviews and so on. So I’ve attempted a summary of responses. Perhaps you can recognise your own reasons in at least one of them.  You may have some I haven’t touched on. Anyway, here they are:

  1. To write has been a long-held ambition.

Often, when young people are faced with the question of why they want to pursue a particular career their immediate response is, ‘I’ve always wanted to . . .’ Many years ago, at my college interview, I was asked, ‘Why do you want to teach?’ At school we’d had it drummed into our heads that if the question arose on interview, we did not reply, ‘I’ve always wanted to.’ I suppose the message stuck. This kind of question definitely needs a carefully thought-out response, even though the instinctive reply of ‘always wanted to’ may be quite true.

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So, where did this life-long desire originate? Many fiction writers will tell you how their love of stories from an early age inspired them to write – first listening to them being read to them, then reading the words for themselves. As a child I loved tales of adventure, which inspired me to write my own little stories, both at home and at school.  With most people the love of story ‘type’ gradually becomes more selective and certain genres appeal more than others.

2.  You have a story simply bursting to be told

Sometimes, an author has a story whirling around inside his/her head, begging to be told. It may have been lurking there for years, or have recently arrived with a sudden POW! Perhaps it was created entirely by the author’s imagination, or is a well-known story imploring a different manner of telling. In my own case, this is certainly true.

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  1. You want to share your own particular area of expertise

For non-fiction authors, the desire to inform looms high – whatever the subject. Many of us have relied on a variety of reference books in our time, and I certainly value the research done by these authors.

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With fiction writers, the need, to inform is still there. But in this case, the background, factual detail is undoubtedly best fed into the story gradually and discreetly. If not, the book will sound like a text book and probably put readers off.

  1. A realisation that you can actually write hits you

Sometimes, the wanting to write only surfaces after a person has already pursued a career in another profession. Perhaps that person took no interest in reading until then, or maybe someone recommended a good book. Perhaps the chosen job didn’t satisfy a creative urge that has only now manifest itself, or the job itself involves writing documents, letters and so on that others frequently admire. Who knows? But tales of people who veered into writing from completely different careers are everywhere. Unusual careers themselves often make good reading matter, whether fiction or non-fiction.

  1. You can express your thoughts and ideas better in writing

The need to apologise is a good example here. The coward’s way out, you may say. Yet the example illustrates my point well. Thoughts, especially emotional ones, are so much easier to write than say. So are lies, I suppose.

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The spoken word involves interaction with people and their judgemental, discerning eyes. The computer page, or notepad, does not have eyes and a writer can pour his/her heart out. And writers may draw on personal experience of events too difficult to talk about, assigning them more easily to fictional characters.

  1. You write for the sheer love of words

Words are the writer’s tool, and it is how individual writers use them that can determine whether a book is fascinating or utterly dull. I’m not saying an entire book should be written in elaborately flowery language – that would be as bad as having no particularly descriptive passages.  Nor am I overlooking the need for a great plot and memorable characters. Words are to be tested and sounded out before used; something writers are usually good at. They play around with different possibilities or, perhaps, use them in similes and metaphors, creating images that come to life as we read . . .

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Ah well, I always did love to read.

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About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
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18 Responses to Why Do Writers Write?

  1. Thank you Millie, it is so true. I had a different kind of discussion about writing which I blogged on tonight. Your post made me evaluate myself as a writer and it took me back to many places and storytellers. I remember how I loved stories told by my grandma, mother, grandfather and others in my family. Then, I wanted to read so much and could not. No books. I read everything I found – thinking they would be interesting, hahaha, not all were. I started school at six and I treasured my first book, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo at Year one. I also found it easier to write about things, the act of writing comforted me. I later became a journalist and…

    • milliethom says:

      How strange to receive this reply right now. I’ve just this second clicked ‘Send’ on a reply to the post you mention. I don’t think I’ve been much help, not yet having been in your situation. A memoir about my family would certainly be hurtful to a few.
      By the way, have you thought about the blog award (on your About page)? If you would rather not accept, of course, you’re cerainly under no obligation to do so. It’s just that I really love your posts.
      Skippy was ace! My kids loved the TV series!
      Keep writing, whatever else you do.

  2. All good reasons to write and what better reason than when you love to read and think maybe you could possibly write better. 😉

    • milliethom says:

      How true is that. Mind you, I have a few authors I’ve really put on pedestals, and I probably couldn’t match them in a million years. But, yes, we can all aim high. (I’ll never reach your status in blogging, though!)

  3. scribbley14 says:

    Reblogged this on scribbley and commented:
    Why do you write?

  4. scribbley14 says:

    Interesting. Made me re-evaluate why I write- to express myself, and because I enjoy picking out words and arranging them in a way that is ‘just right’ 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you for liking it. I find the different reasons people have for writing really interesting. Words are wonderful things and, like you, I love to play around with them.

  5. Everything you said is spot on! Everybody can write, but not everyone is certain about why they do it. I think it is very important that we are clear with our reasons so we never stop writing and discovering how powerful and fulfilling it is to express your own words. Thank you for this great post! Diana x

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you so much for liking it! It was one of the earlier ones I wrote when I first started my blog. As a relatively new author myself, I like to delve into various aspects of writing, publishing and promotion every now and then. 🙂

      • That’s really good to know! I read some of your blog posts and I learned that you have a trilogy, and the way I see it, it’s historical? I love historical fiction and I look forward to reading your books. 🙂

      • milliethom says:

        You’re a teacher, as I was until a few years ago, and you also write. I would advise anyone who hopes to have their work published, not to leave it as late as I did. I had a large family and needed to teach, so writing had to wait. How I wish I’d had time to write my books years ago. Enough moans, I think. It’s lovely to meet and chat with you, Diana. I’ve enjoyed a few of your posts earlier and hope to pop back on soon to see a few more. 🙂

      • Thank you, Millie! Your words inspire me. I am just curious. When did you stop teaching and are you only focused on writing now? I teach and write at the same time, and I find it very fulfilling. I am not planning to teach for a long time, though. I just need to document my classes because I am doing a study on language acquisition. My fiance and I are currently working on a novel, too. It’s sci-fi and has some historical references. It’s a work in progress, and we’re hoping it turns out well. Thank you for taking some time to read my posts, and I also look forward to reading more of yours. I have learned a lot from your posts and they are very motivating!

        All the best!
        Diana x

      • milliethom says:

        I found teaching more fulfilling than I can say, Diana. I taught up to Year 13 and found the work really interesting. There are a few reasons why I didn’t write whilst I was teaching, which I’ll explain as briefly as I can. First, the workload at home from examination students is huge. It’s also heavy throughout the schhol (11-18 year olds). I had very little free time at home. On top of this I have had six children, and I’m sure you can imagine how much time they take up. Also, in 1990 my husband was in a really bad car accident, which meant he had to leave work.(He had been in teaching, as well). This left me as the proverbial ‘breadwinner’ – so leaving school wasn’t possible until the children were all grown up. I was 63 before I ‘retired’. Not a good age to start writing if you want to really make a career out of it.
        Hope all that hasn’t bored you to tears! Writing is wonderful for me. I’ve always had a ridiculously vivid imagination! Thank you for asking, Diana. Have a great day. 🙂

      • I understand it now. 🙂 Thank you for sharing that with me. I just realized how important it is to not waste any single second I have and make the best of what I have right now. My workload is actually lighter compared to what you had, that is why I am able to write on my free time. But it is never too late, and we are never too old to hitch our wagon to a star. I am amazed of how successful you are with your writing now and I am very happy for you!

        PS: I am currently reading your first book! Thank you so much! I wish I will have a hard copy of it though. But anyway, have a great day!

        Diana

      • milliethom says:

        What can I say to that, Diana, other than to send you a big ‘thank you’ and lots of hugs. I love your phrase about never being too old to hitch your wagon to a star. How inspirational is that for me! I would love to have my books in print and am looking into a couple of ways of having what they call ‘Print on Demand’ copies made. I hope to approach literary agents once all three books are finished. That’s why it’s so important to me to have a good few reviews on the first two before I do.
        Dear me, I’m rabbiting again. Time to shut up, I think! Have a lovely day yourself. 🙂

      • Don’t worry! You can do that! 🙂 And it would be a great pleasure for me to write a review of it on Amazon when I finish reading the first book. I will also be including it in my GoodReads list of books so I can make a review there. I will definitely get a hard copy of your books even when I am finished reading them by that time. I love keeping hard copies. Enjoy the rest of your day, Millie! It’s already night time in my side of the world. 🙂

      • milliethom says:

        Yes, my books are historical fiction. I’m quite hooked on ot – and not just British history. Of course, I know more about that! My first book is free on Amazon now – until 24th February, if you want to have a look. 🙂

      • I am checking it right now. Thank you so much! x

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