Nathan Bransford, Author

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why Do You Write?

It's Wednesday, which means it's time for another installment of YOU TELL ME, the part of the blog where I stop pontificating and let you pontificate like the pontiff you've always wanted to be. So speak up, you silly pontiff, you.

This week: not a multiple choice test. Put away your #2 pencils and scantron sheets, because this is an essay question.

You tell me: Why do you write? What makes you pick up the pen/typewriter/laptop/quill and parchment and put words to the page? What makes you overcome the doubters and the rejections and the heartache to wake up the next day and write some more? What compels you through the hours of toiling in obscurity and the uncertain prospects of success?

Subquestion 1a: what advice do you have for your fellow writers to keep on going?

Discuss amongst yourselves.


Heather said...

I can't stop myself.

Heather said...

I write because if I don't, all these damn stories in my head keep me up all night. It's the only way to get them out.

Heather said...

Oh, and my advice for other writers?

If you want to keep going, don't listen to Sean Lindsay's advice.

He has GREAT advice if you want to kick the habit, though...

Jen said...

I have characters that natter away in my head. Blah, blah, blah. They won't be quiet until I get their story out.
I used to be able to suppress them, but once I started to write seriously, they began to get loud.
They also don't do what I want them to do. LOL.
There have been many times that, even with loud little voices in my head, I just "donwanna" write.
When you get a check for $2.50 in a month for sales in epublishing, sometimes it doesn't seem worth the effort.
On those days, I talk to other writers. They know how it is. Often brainstorming with them helps me get to the other side.
If I was in it for the money, I'd quit. Luckily, I love it.

Anonymous said...

For years I have had dreams about words. I would wake up in the morning and say to my husband something like 'is cuspidate a word?' then I would go and look it up.
I have been writing for over ten years and have never submitted anything until recently- it never occured to me that I could be a 'real' writer until my brother asked me to start sending things in.
i know my first interest in writing was from watching my dad peck away at his typewriter- he has been mostly unsuccesful with his writing career, and in fact his only book sale was a pornographic volume that is illeagal to sell in many states because of its reference to unerage boys. Ugh!
Still as the years meander on I feel like I have something to say and a unique way of saying it. This feeling has recently persuaded me to turn down a high paying job to continue writing full time. Life is full of difficult choices, but this one seemed pretty straight foward to me.
Having a sex offender father (oh didn't I mention that?) and a child who has been classified as a prodegy (I have three children one of whom is a musical genius) and a husband who is a brilliant doctor and a recovering drug addict- I feel like I have a unique perspective on life and boy do I love to write about it!

Roxan said...

I write it better than I say it. People tell me I should write, so I do. I also have the knack for saying the most with the least amount of words. That remark comes from those who read my work.

Sherri said...

I write to bring other people joy, and to give myself a sense of accomplishment.

Demon Hunter said...

I write because I love to scare and freak people out; besides, I want to share my warped mind with the world! Is that too much to ask? ;*)
I'll share this advice with other writers. A professional writer friend shared it with me: When you are shopping that first novel, start on another, then another. Agents always want to know what's in the works and if you have long-term career goals! Plus, it can help you obtain a multi-book deal. Good luck!

Kim Stagliano said...

I started writing because I didn't have enough money for therapy. Husband out of work, three kids with autism, broke, selling house to survive and moving in with parents. Ah, truth IS stranger than fiction. My protag leaped out of my head said all the things I couldn't say and keep my mother of the year award. I love her for that. Now I write to get a message out on behalf of my kids and the countless others written off due to their autism. It compels me like a giant magnet. And I enjoy making stuff up....

Annalee said...

I write because it's fun.

I wish there were some really poetic reason behind it, but notsomuch.

That, and it's a stress reliever. I've made such a habbit of it that I really can't focus when I'm not writing on a daily basis. I stop sleeping and start talking to myself in public-- it's really kinda disturbing. I find it best not to tempt the men in the white coats.

Annalee said...

As far as the 'advice to keep fellow writers going' goes:

Writers write. Butt in Chair, as we say over on Absolute Write. Anyone can talk about that novel they want to write someday, but talking is not writing. Writers write.

David said...

Oddly enough, a few months ago I wrote an essay on this very subject and posted it here.

Anonymous said...

Why do I write? Because I've been reading all my life, and it just seems natural.

Because my kids are finally old enough that I can get two minutes to myself.

Because I have health problems which prevent me from working outside the home, which means there isn't as much pressure on me to do something more lucrative with my life.

Because I want to.


KingM said...

Damned if I know. I usually enjoy having written more than I enjoy writing. I find the submission process maddening, the rewards rare and fleeting, and I'm perfectly happy on the days when I don't write anything.

And yet...and yet I can't stop. And I don't want to.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I write because it's the way I'm hard-wired. I breathe, I eat, I sleep, I write.

As for advice to keep going, that's not so simple. Maybe the easiest thing to say is that it's a hell of a lot more interesting than quitting and staring a wall all day, and it's a hell of a lot less bloody than learning to be a butcher.

Eric said...

I write out of guilt. I feel intense guilt whenever I'm doing something else when I could/should be writing. Even if I'm reading, I think, "I should be writing." I do other stuff, because writing is HARD (FUN?? Ha! It's WORK) and other stuff is EASY and I like easy.

Oh, I admit, I really, really like that little rush I get when I come up with something cool that, at least for that moment in time, I think no one else has done. It leaves a goofy smile on my face. (Until I see it done somewhere else. Which is why I shouldn't read! And then I go do something EASY so the guilt can start all over again....)

pinhead said...

I write because I want people to think of me as clever at something, and I'm not that clever at anything else.

Advice on how to keep writing: Dunno. If you figure it out, fill me in. I think it has something to do with having other, far more important things you should be doing.

Robin L. said...

I want to be part of the conversation. Books have been such an important part of my life, and I want to offer the same richness to others. I love the idea of creating characters and making them do what *I* want them to do. I often rewrite other books in my head. :)

But - I am not compelled to write. I don't go crazy if I can't write. I don't write because it's an obsession. I write because I want to. Just like I want to have a latte in the morning or I want to make a healthy dinner for my family. I want to write a really good book that other people will enjoy.

And advice on giving up - don't. Yes, the odds seem insurmountable, but really they aren't. You have control over your book in the way that many artists working in collaboration don't. It's a much simpler thing to hone your craft day in and day out than it is to secure the budget for a film for instance. I firmly believe that a very talented writer will be published. It's just a matter of polishing your work till it shines, and finding a subject matter that others want to read about today.

ERozanski said...

I write fiction because I have stories I want to tell, but I write for a local paper as well.

For the past two years I've written a biweekly article about our library's news and events. It is a thrill to see my words in print and my name at the top of a newspaper column.

Being able to communicate about something I feel is important is a joy.

Stephen Parrish said...

I write to purge.

As for advice on how to keep on going, anyone who needs such advice is probably in the wrong business.

Dr. Hack said...

World domination.

And Heather, you're terribly wrong. Everyone needs to listen to Sean Lindsay's advice.

Anyone who doesn't is kidding themselves.

Anonymous said...

Writing makes me write.

Even at it's worse, most painful and stressful, writing makes me happier than anything else.

My advice to other writers has always been: If you don't enjoy it, for the love of god, stop. Do something you do enjoy.

Bernita said...

Because it's magic.

Rob Brooks said...

I've been writing short stories (and I mean real short) since I was six years old. I don't know why I started, but now I need to write because it's become such a part of my life. I feel a strong need to create things, whether it's stories, comics, music, whatever. I feel a need to be involved in making these types of things.

Steve Axelrod said...

To set things right. To get revenge. To amuse my friends. To seduce women. To impress my father.For fun. For profit. Because I can.

BernardL said...

I can take something frustrating in real life, set it up as a straw man in my writing, and beat it like a gong. :)

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I write because words are my life. I write because it's a compulsion I cannot cure except by more writing. I write to scratch an unreachable itch. I write...hell. I don't have this much time.

I write because I must.

Ryan said...

I write because I'm too timid to speak up in person.

As for advice to other writers, write for yourself and you'll be satisfied more often than when you write for someone else.

Tia said...

I write because I love to read. One day, after reading The Once and Future King for about the fifteenth time, I decided that T. H. White must have had a lot of fun writing it. I just had to try writing for myself. That was years ago, and I'm still trying.

Anonymous said...

Hey, do we get extra credit if we spell all the words right? How long does this have to be? Is it open book? Those other agents always lets us use the book. I don't have time to finish. Can I take this home and do it?

Julie said...

I write because I love to tell stories. Stories that entertain and make people think and feel.

My advice to other writers is to ignore the nay-sayers and just write. One of my favorite quotes is: "The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in shockproof sh!t-detector." – Ernest Hemingway.

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't know why I write. Maybe just stubbornness.

Advice I'm about to blog on: Not everyone is going to like what you write. Suck it up.

Erin said...

I stopped writing for several years after graduate school, focusing my energies instead on a job for which I was completely not qualified and which involved no writing at all. Even with this now successful career, small children to care for, a husband, a house of my own, and a whole life full of the normal collected pressures and demands, I came back to it. I write because I enjoy writing, and because it makes me something more than what I appear to be from the outside.

Simon Haynes said...

I write because I want worldwide fame, my own private jet and more money than Bill Gates.
Of course, all that dreaming doesn't leave much time for writing, but how long does it take to dash off a few thousand words anyway?

Tori Scott said...

I've been writing since grade school. Ideas pop into my head and the only way to get them to leave me alone is to write them down. When I lay down at night, dialogue starts running through my head and at least one or two nights a week I have to get up, fire the computer back up, and write it down.

Before I actually thought about writing with the hope of getting published, I kept notebooks with me all the time so I could write out what was running through my head. If I hadn't, I'd have gone insane, I think, with all those disembodied voices running loose.

Best advice? Don't give up, but also don't give up the rest of your life in the process. Don't shut yourself away from your family and friends. Set a time of day that's for writing, an hour or two until you're actually making a living at it, then go spend time with the people you love. Because writing will consume you and one day you'll look up and wonder where everybody went.

whitemouse said...

I write because I want external validation of my worth.

And yes, my tongue is lodged in my cheek, but there really is a strong element of that involved. I know I have some talent, and I'd like the world to at least notice it before I die. I feel small and pathetic and want to make a teeny tiny mark upon the universe.

I write because I'm too timid to speak up in person.

Ryan? That resonated. Same here. :-)

Dave said...

I write because I enjoy the act of writing. I enjoy putting words to paper.

Michele Lee said...

I write because I have stories to tell. Oddly enough out of everything in my life writing is the only thing I've always had confidence at. Maybe, I think in part I write because the odds are stacked against me. Because it's hard and slow and I've never liked anything to be easy. It feels better when you work for it.

My advice to other writers... find your own path. I've wasted a lot of time trying to do what others advised or comparing my write-between-homework-potty-training-and-making-dinner tempo to professional writers, or aspiring writers with no other responsibilities. It'll never work. Do YOUR best, and leave it to other people to do theirs.

sylvia said...

I'd like to echo Roxan: I write it better than I say it. The chances are much better that you will understand what I meant.

Writing doesn't make me happy. Having written is what makes me happy. Some times, it's hard to remember that I have to do the former first.

Advice? Just write it down. Don't worry about the rest of it, just yet. There's plenty of time once you have written but you have to get there first.

Christopher M. Park said...

Writing, to me, is first and foremost about communication. I want to tell people things--stories, ideas, what I think it means to be a good person. There's a lot of unpleasantness in this world, and I want to inspire people the way my favorite authors inspired me.

That's my purpose. But that aside, I'm a detail-oriented type of person, and in-depth construtive/creative tasks like programming and fiction writing also just call to me on a fundamental level. Writing much more so than programming, however, because its non-quantitative nature makes it infinitely harder and more enduring.

My advice to writers? Don't get too distracted on meta-writing tasks. Like learning about agents, or reading/writing blogs. That stuff is important, too, but it can suck away far too much time from your actual craft.


My blog on writing

whorled writer said...

Wow, I'm astounded by the number of comments. And they all pretty much echo my own thoughts: validation, magic, need. Beyond all the other reasons mentioned, I guess I just write because when I'm not thinking about anything else, I'm thinking about stories and writing.

B.E. Sanderson said...

For me, the easy answer is that I write because I have so many stories in my head and I'd like to get them out onto paper. (Or into a Word file.)

Dig a little deeper and I write because I have something important to say, and my stories help me put my thoughts into words.

Anonymous said...

I write because what I want to read isn't out there, or something gives me an idea, and I enjoy making stuff up.

For what it's worth, I don't consider myself unsuccessful just because I'm not paper-and-ink published yet. *shrugs* I have a good time writing, and that's enough. But if I can sell something too, woohoo! That'd be great. And I'm trying, but it's quite a process, as you know.

eric said...

Because a tree killed my father.

zylaa said...

Wow, Eric, you too? (/sarcasm)

I write because it's fun. I've always tried to get my stories out- and I mean always. When I was in preschool I would stamp pictures and dictate the stories to my mother. It's all sorta escalated from there.
And I can't tell stories verbally.

Jen said...

I write because I can't NOT write. (g) Besides, what's better than telling stories?

Advice? Just write. All the other BS aside, if it's your passion in life, just do it and enjoy your time spent in the worlds you've created. If you're meant to do it, you'll always find your way back when life interrupts.

Heatheness said...

Someone's got to do it.

Anonymous said...

I write 'cause you'll never make money roleplaying.

And because if I don't make it as a writer I'll be a miserable IT guy at some mega-corp. (Hooray for a CS degree).

And because I write better than Faulkner, Steinbeck, King, Steel, Clancy, Brown, and Shakespeare all put together.

(Wouldn't that be a horrible 7-author book? "The Sound and the House of Mice and It: DaVinci's Lear of All Fears")

Michelle Zink said...

'Cause I can't help it.

Anonymous said...

I write because I can’t not write.
“The first million words are practice.”—Isaac Asimov. Those words have to be practice, which means you have to be improving, not just continuing doggedly on in your own terrible style. One very good way to improve is to get other people to read and critique your stories after they are finished. These shouldn’t just be any random people you can pick off the street, but well-chosen. One very good place is
“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”—E.L. Doctorow. Basically you have to have complete confidence in your writing and realize how terrible it is, both at the same time.
If you are determined to improve and improve your writing until you are worthy to be called a master of the craft, then you will succeed. Otherwise, don't bother. (That is not to say that you won't get published—contrary to what some may believe you don't have to write well to get published, though I won't name any names—but the better you are the more likely you will please yourself and others.)

Pat Logan said...

Like David, I just wrote a post on my blog on the very same topic recently. Small world.

I write because I like to write. If I ever read my work and didn't get a kick out of it, if I didn't lose myself in my work, if I didn't have fun at some level with it then I would know it was time to stop.

For other writers? If you love to write, don't give up, and never let anyone tell you that what's inside you isn't worth writing. Even if you never publish one thing, you're still a writer.

How many of today's classic writers were discovered after they left this earth? You never know who may be reading your words 100 years from now. Just be the best writer you can be.

SurfGrape said...

I write because I want to sit with the popular kids at lunch.

Seriously, writing is just the coolest thing ever. Why do you think that most people say they'd like to write a novel someday? You don't often hear people say they'd like to sell insurance someday, or perform surgery someday--or even knit a sweater or play piano someday. Nope, writing a novel is the ultimate dream.

Luc2 said...

I used to be a day-dreamer at night. In my bed, these stories and scenes would flash through my head. Maybe a mechanism to clear my head from everyday worries. At one point, these scenes got bigger, disjointed storylines somehow had the beginning of cohesiveness and I just had to write.

To keep going? I joined an online critique group. It keeps me pushing to submit a chapter at least once every 2 or 3 weeks. If I wait longer, I'm afraid I'll lose some of my regular critters. Less dramatic, my regular critters lose touch with the story. For me, it's a great way to keep pushing myself to write.

Anonymous said...

Writing is the elixir of the mentally challenged.

Admit you're nuts for obsessing over a comma.

Admit you're nuts for trying to understand the publishing industry.

Admit you envy Dan Brown.

Admit you're a masochist.

I fit this profile and this is why I write.

Calenhíril said...

I write because it's fun. Because it's a fantastic escape from my very practical profession. Because I'm a creative person at heart but for some reason I keep thinking I can be good at the sciences.

Because I have dreams that demand to be told. Because I can hear the music, sometimes, that underlies the scene that I'm writing, and my fingers can't do anything other than type, or put pencil to paper.

Because there are authors out there that make me clutch a book to my chest and say, damn. I hope that someday I will have a novel out there that does the same to someone else.

Because my imagination runs away from me, sometimes, and I get frustrated when I can't follow. Because people tell me that I'm pretty good at it (though some might have a little familial bias). Because I always have, and I hope I always will. It's taken a while, but I've found out that writing is what makes me happiest.

Anne-Marie said...

I write because I love it, and because, to quote Stephen King, "it's the best legal high".

I am very busy with my teaching job, and nothing pleases me more in my off time to relax and escape into the worlds I've created.

My advice about writing is the same advice I would give about life in general- keep doing the things you love.

spyscribbler said...

I never really meant to write. I never considered it. And then I wrote on a lark, and realized that it'd been in the back of mind my whole life. It felt so right.

I'm like Heather: my brain has been making up stories all my life, and I just can't get it to shut up. It feels better if I get it out of my head and on paper.

When I'm uninspired, money and deadline inspire me. Fear's a good one for me, unfortunately. Tends to stress me out, though. :-)

At the end of the day, my very worst writing days feel satisfying. I just feel like I did what I was meant to do that day, and I feel okay. That's what keeps me going, I guess.

Peter R said...

I write to bring my characters to life – I want to publish so they can live. And because it whiles away the hours on the commute to work – I’d go mad if I had nothing to do. Because it’s a challenge to always improve – a very tricky art that needs to be mastered. Because once an idea is written down it takes on a life of its own.

Advice to other writers: keep going, don’t stop until you reach the end, don’t edit until you reach the last page, don’t listen to anyone, except your characters, until the first draft is laid out on paper. And remember, your first, second, and third drafts are crap, but each one moves you closer to perfection.

Just Believe By Gloria Jai said...

I feel like I can help people through the Power of Words.

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