Why do writers write? Writers start writing in solitude but once the work is done writers wish for their words to be read and shared with the public at large. Annie Proulx said, “a book is not finished until it has been read,” getting attention from the public is what authors are craving for. So, when someone in the social media sphere is flashing the spotlight on you, you say, “thank you baby, so glad for the opportunity.”
This week began quite well; it started with an Instagram post from @WOCwritetoo (Women of Color Write Too), shining the spotlight on my work alongside that of three other lovely WOC writers. This made me think about why writers write; and as it often happens these days, I can’t spend time thinking about something without having to write about it! So, in true writer’s style, I decided to put my thoughts on paper and share it with you.
Do Writers Write For Money?
Every writer has their own unique narrative behind the reasons they write. One day they decided to sit at their desk and write a piece to be shared with the public. By typing frantically on their laptop they are taking a leap of faith deciding to enter the ‘literary arena’, not knowing what will be waiting for them once they step foot inside. Will their readers be gracious or vicious? Picture Russell Crowe in the movie ‘Gladiator’ entering the arena for his first fight.
Question: Why do writers write?
Answer: Because they want to.
That’s it. Problem solved. Sure, you can look at this question in a very superficial kind of way and leave it at that, but I wanted to dig a bit deeper. So, I went to investigate if I could find any meaningful and less brisk type of answers to this question.
According to Dr. Lawrence R. Samuel (Ph.D Psychology), the psychology behind the pursuit of literary life is not precisely clear. With rejection and criticism so much part of the literary experience and the fact that the income of the average American writer hovers around the poverty line, one has to wonder if writers have a streak of masochism in their genetic makeup to choose it as their profession.
Why would anyone consent to the emotional, financial, spiritual and even physical contortions that are necessary in order to lead a writer’s life? It can’t be about the money. In addition, much patience is required to receive any form of external reward from writing as reviews and royalties typically come long after the book is launched.
An interesting answer comes directly from a Professor of psychology who tells us that it is definitely not for money that writers write. I am guessing that he is talking about the type of writers that haven’t yet made it to the New York Times Best Selling Authors’ list. You see, there are two types of writers in this world: Type 1: the Best-Selling-Author-Type such as JK Rowling, Paulo Coelho, Stephen King, Mark Manson, Robert Green, Malcolm Gladwell, etc. … and then you have the Type 2: the Working-Hard-To-Get-There-Type. If you are a writer who is reading this and happen to fall into the second category, don’t fret, let that Envy-Syndrome that you have towards the first category of writers run through you, and then move on and find solace in the fact that there are plenty of reasons – that are not financial – why writers write.
So, Why Do Writers Write?
So, Why Do Writers Write? For Posterity, Legacy or some other reasons?
All of the above, and for some other good reasons below:
Sharing: At a basic level, writing is about someone sharing something with someone else, making connection a key component of the pursuit. The possibility that a book can be deeply moving or at least interesting and informative to a reader is a prime motivation for writers to keep on writing.
Creativity: through their work writers have the potential of having a bond with far more people than they can in real life, a perspective that recast writing from its accepted view as solitary and lonely exercise. From an expression of individual creativity, it shifts to a builder of relationships.
Liberation: Writing is a liberating force and something that is instrumental in allowing writers to be all they can be.
Therapy: Writing can also serve as a therapeutic release and many authors find their profession to be an ideal mean of maintaining a sense of psychological well-being.
Meaning: Writing is a search for something meaningful, a longing to create something of value. There is an intimate relationship between the writer and the reader. The writer makes the first move and takes the first leap of faith, releasing their inner makings to the world for all to see. There is a great risk when it comes to writing, releasing content freely and openly. Content can be received graciously and given applause or simply dismembered and torn apart by readers and reviewers. Writing is a journey with its unique ups and down.
Exploration: Writing takes you out of your comfort zone. It is the push, the striving, the discomfort. Writers write because it pushes then beyond the barriers of everyday existence into a world of what might be. A world of opportunity. An infinite variety of maybes and ‘what-ifs‘. A vast plain of words that might describe the world in which we live. For a writer, no two days are the same. The path may not always be smooth and predictable, but here are always new sights to see. There is always more to explore. Like any great journey, writing is full of its ups and downs. Sometimes it feels like a roller coaster; other times it is like riding a donkey. It is an isolated but far from lonely experience. With our words and fellow travelers to keep us company, adventure lurks around every corner. Writing can never be a waste of time because it takes you to places you would never go. There is a lot more to the writing life than what we earn, or don’t earn. Writing is not done for money, it is for those moments when we choose to step into discomfort that our stories begin to be interesting. Being away from your routine and placing yourself in a strange environment is challenging. Each moment is full of excitement and anticipation about what could happen next. It is not about the destination; it is about the journey. Johanna Castro.
I Didn’t Decide to Be a Writer I Discovered I Was One
For me, there are three people that best embodied the reasons why I unexpectedly found myself wearing the shoes of a writer: James, Baldwin, Maya Angelou (whom my eldest daughter is named after) and Toni Morrison.
The American Poet and author James Baldwin said, “You cannot underestimate the importance of writing. Writers describe things which other people are too busy to describe. I didn’t decide to become a writer, I discovered I was one.”
Maya Angelou, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Toni Morrison, “If there is a book that you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it!’ This is how I got to write my book ‘This Is Your Quest’. I could not find anywhere a book that gathered in one place all the key subjects I was interested in; a book that will inspire me but challenge me all the same, a book that will breath hope into me when I am feeling down, a book that could educate, heal and illuminate the mind. I am not an academic, a psychologist or an anthropologist. I am neither a scientist nor an economist. I am just an observer, a thinker. I am curious about the world and I am curious about people. I write because I have a desire to explore the ins and out of what matters to dig deep on subjects and then bring it to the surface and show its significance to all the curious souls out there.
This is Your Quest
Below is an extract from the Preface of my book:
I have to admit; I am stepping outside my own comfort zone by writing this book. I am venturing into territory totally unfamiliar to me, not knowing in advance where this adventure will take me and how it all might unfold; but I am prepared. My curiosity and sense of adventure are stronger than my fear. I must remind myself: what is the worst that can happen? That, once written, my book doesn’t attract much attention and disappears into the “oubliettes?” Writing this book, however, is first and foremost a gift to myself. Of course, I would rather it be that my book finds an audience and makes an impact, but whatever its success, I believe writing it is an experience worth having and have enjoyed the process of putting my thoughts onto paper.
It is also possible that this book attracts attention, but of the negative sort. I am willing to accept the fact that any author might have their work scrutinized by critics, who have the power to put it on a pedestal or drag it down into the mud. My perspective on this is best summarized by David Schlosser who said, “the only writer to whom I should compare myself is the writer I was yesterday.” It is much easier to be a critic than an artist. It is easier to destroy than to build. Before you criticize someone’s work, try to be an artist first. With this said, the best person to describe my own sentiment about critics is Theodore Roosevelt who rightly stated, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotion; who spends himself on a worthy cause; who at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
This is Your Quest is a book that will inspire you but will also challenge you. It is not for the fainthearted. When I wrote the book, I felt more than once that I was on a ‘slippery slope‘ but kept writing because I made it my Quest to take the path ‘less traveled by,‘ and hope for you, as it has for me, that it ‘makes all the difference.’
So my dear friend, I have written my book but it will not be finished until you have read it!
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For more on this subject you can purchase my book ‘This is Your Quest’ online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble. The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Nobles (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Or check out her Amazon Author Page here.