Insanity or God complex: why writers write

Why do you write?

I regularly ask myself this question!

For those that have completed the arduous journey of completing a novel, you’ll know it’s not for the faint hearted. It can be addictive, exciting and deeply rewarding; it can also be extremely frustrating, lonely and soul destroying.

So why do we do it?!

A normal part of a writers day

This is BEFORE the writing begins…

There’s a fascinating assortment of reasons why writers write. And, just as every writer is unique, so too are their motivations. A great article on Flavorwire touches on why some of the world’s best known writers do what they do, here. You might find you agree, disagree, or strongly identify with their motivations.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but here’s some of the main reasons writers claim a dedication to their art:

  • Sanity! When we don’t write, we become that slow boiling saucepan of water. Left long enough, it threatens to boil over and cause untold damage to everyone around us (including ourselves) if we don’t get those words down on a page. Indeed, Lord Byron once admitted, “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” Modern day author, Judy Blume, offers a more balanced recommendation: “Writing is essential to our well-being.”
  • To get happy. Writers are regularly accused of being an unsociable, brooding lot. What the non-writers out there may not understand is when we don’t write, we’re even harder to live with (partners of writers worldwide, we applaud you!) Stephen King says quite simply that he writes, “To get happy” and Terry Pratchett states, “writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.”
  • It’s cathartic/provides solace. Similar to getting happy, but this point goes deeper. We write to rid ourselves, to explore and to come to terms with experiences, emotions and feelings. And if we don’t, this largely affects, you guessed it, our sanity! Anne Rice falls into this category, “I lost my mother when I was 14. My daughter died at the age of 6. I lost my faith as a Catholic. When I’m writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is.”
  • To create. We don’t have a God complex, not really. Some ego is generally required – or else we’d see no point in sharing our thoughts and finishing the damn book in the first place! But it’s that act of creation that offers a deep reward and sense of satisfaction to keep the writer coming back for more, despite the painful bouts of insecurity and frustration we invariably suffer along the way. Neil Gaiman sums it up beautifully, “The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising… and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.”

Every writer is on their own journey. Initially, I wrote to create – not out of ego (really) – because if I didn’t, my world grew stale. I became grey and without purpose and everything else in my life suffered.

For many years, music was where I unleashed my creativity and each song I wrote held its own story. Eventually though, the need to create stories came to claim me. And when it did, something wonderful happened.

In the words of Gloria Steinem, “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”

Amen to that.

Why do you write? Do any of the reasons and quotes provided above resonate with you?

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