Why write, indeed.
I guess it’s different strokes for different folks, but I think it all comes down to just a few things:
For a job
For money (yes, I’m separating this from the first, because it can be a side project or hobby)
For the love of it
And that’s probably about it, really.
Some of us have a day job that requires us to write – you may be in marketing, or a journalist, or – shock! – you might even be a novelist. Or you might simply write as part of your job – my day job in sales/consulting sees me writing presentations, demos, and all sorts of fun things fairly regularly.
The second point is a contentious one – for me, at least. At first, I had wanted to list this as “For a hobby”, but I really felt “For money” was more accurate.
Let me explain why.
For years, I thought of myself as a bit of a videogame connoisseur. I’d loved games all my life, had read the magazines, followed the news, and I thought I could do a better job than some of the peeps out there that do this for a day job (no offense to any of you that may be reading).
In some ways, I think I was right – I did do a pretty good job… from time to time. But I never pinned down WHY I wanted to do it. And for me, it boiled down to one thing – I wanted to make a name for myself. That is, I wanted to turn it into my day job.
But it’s not an easy job to GET. So I did the next best thing – writing reviews and the like as a hobby, first on my own website, and later for others. Yet it never satisfied me, and I think I realised why – finally! After all these years – I think it’s because I wasn’t writing about games because I LOVED writing about games. It was because I wanted to be something. Something I was never going to be.
When I realised this, I put the brakes on pretty hard. I did want to be a games reviewer, but I knew that, for several reasons, I couldn’t be one. So the effort I was putting in was actually being wasted, and was better placed elsewhere.
(Now… Please note that this was MY experience, and there are plenty of folks out there that do this kind of thing because they DO love writing about games, and that’s fine – it’s just not me.)
And this brings us to my third point… The love of writing. Personally, I think this is the most important. Writing for a day job, that’s one thing, but if there’s no love there, it’s just a job. Writing as a hobby or for extra cash – more of the same. But writing for the love of it? This is where beautiful things are born.
And… sometimes terrible things, because not everybody CAN write well – but the point is, if you write because you love it? Then it doesn’t matter – it should get better in the editing process.
So while you work on your book, or your website, or your speech, or WHATEVER, sit back and take a breath, and think about WHY you are writing this. Is your heart truly in it? It’s ok if it’s not, but you might find that your approach to the writing itself changes depending on your answer to that question.
Plus, I’d perhaps ponder further on whether you should actually keep writing that book if your heart’s not in it.
And what about me? Why do I write?
When I was very young, I was a voracious reader. And more than that, I loved to write stories, which I wrote by hand, in big scrapbooks, accompanied by illustrations also scratched in coloured pencil by my own hand. I loved writing. I loved coming up with new ideas, new characters, and crazy situations for them to get themselves out of.
When I got older, I had no idea what I “wanted” to do. So I chose classes in high school that would put me with my friends, rather than classes I would benefit from. Shame. In 10th grade, I put massive amounts of effort into a fiction story-writing project – so much effort in fact that I submitted a 20,000 word fantasy story that was only a few chapters of a much grander idea. My teacher at the time gave me top marks. I’ll never forget the comment he put on the front – “Talent, Greg. Talent.” And yet I neglected to continue focusing on my writing.
In my 20s, I began writing again, highly influenced by drug taking and the Beat culture – I loved reading Burroughs and Kerouac at the time – but this too was just a phase. I was still discovering myself.
That process took me 20 more years. And I’m still discovering myself. But the one thing that I did discover over the course of my investigations was this – I am a writer. I love to write. And I have stories I want to share with the world, if they want to read them.