the shadow of reading glasses on an open book makes a heart shape

Why do you write?

Why do you write?

This February, we are celebrating what we love about writing. This is the first of two planned posts celebrating the written word.

the shadow of reading glasses on an open book makes a heart shape

What do you love about writing? CC image “Love” courtesy of williami5 on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. I started on my father’s cast-off typewriter—a utilitarian descendant of the movie-set classic type—and graduated to an outdated computer that accepted eight-inch floppy discs as well as the high-tech of the day, five-inch floppy discs. Floppy discs, people.

Yeah, we weren’t the cutting-edge media household until my youngest brother started influencing purchasing decisions and dragging us into the future.

I started writing stories before I was old enough to read Mary Higgins Clark, but I still credit her with the genesis of my desire to write books. At the time, of course, I started with mysteries. I had no concept how much work goes into a good mystery novel. The protagonists were all amazingly similar to myself and moved through circumstances so mysterious they often remained opaque to even me, the author. I don’t think I ever finished writing one.

Honestly, I have no idea whether I was any good at the beginning. By the time I was in high school, though, and certainly in college, I recognized that, at least sometimes, I had the power to turn a really, really good phrase. “I love how you said [wrote] that!” remain to me some of the sweetest words in the English language.

Reasons We Love Writing

My reasons for writing—that I love to tell stories, that I love language, and for the sheer pleasure of it—rank among the top reasons anyone ever starts writing. A selection, stolen from The Writing Workshop Notebook, by Alan Ziegler:

  • We write to remember, we write to forget.
  • There are stories we must tell, or we must tell stories.
  • We write to create something that wasn’t there before; we write to re-create [transform] something that was.
  • For sheer pleasure: the pen gliding; the clicking of the keys.
  • For a sense of healing pain.
  • We write to move the reader, or to change the reader in some way—if only to imbue greater appreciation for the moon or a cup of coffee.
Why write? We write to remember, we write to forget. ~ Alan Ziegler Click To Tweet

Other reasons that I love:

  • To give myself strength; to be the characters that I’m not; to explore the things I’m afraid of. —Joss Whedon
  • Why did I write? Because I found life unsatisfactory. —Tennessee Williams

And for everyone, but most especially for nonfiction writers, from William Zinsser, On Writing Well:

  • We write about subjects that interest us and that we care about.

About Those Nonfiction Writers

I started out as a fiction gal, and still need to have a novel in rotation most of the time for reading. However, I absolutely adore beautiful nonfiction. Strong narrative is wonderful to witness, no matter the genre. One of my recent favorites is Helen Thorpe’s Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War, and one of my all-time favorites is The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring, by Richard Preston, about the tallest trees in the world.

I have no military or arborist background; and yet I read these books cover to cover because the authors made these worlds alive for me. What subject are you passionate about? Write that.

What are you passionate about? Write that. Click To Tweet

While I 100% believe the reasons listed above apply to nonfiction writers as much as they do to fiction writers, in my experience, fiction writers identify more strongly with them. What else drives nonfiction writers?

  • The desire to create expertise and develop authority.
  • A diverse income from a topic area they love. Nonfiction books can be repurposed: chapters can become articles, webinars, or speeches.
  • They write to make a difference. Nonfiction informs, educates, inspires, motivates, and answers readers’ questions, solves their problems, and eases their pain.

The bottom line

Why do you write? Maybe now is the time for you to remember what made you pick up the pen/start typing in the first place. Good writing comes from a place of passion and passionate interest. Have I missed any of your reasons? Let me know below.

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Thoughts, questions, comments, suggestions, and blarney (bonus points for wit):