Enough flippancy! Begone, Trashy Muse! I shall return to flippancy tomorrow, but today I write on the oh-so-serious topic of : Why Write?
Don’t tell me you’ve never asked yourself that deadliest of questions: Why in the fuck am I doing this? (unless you’re writing YA, in which case it’s “Why in heaven’s name am I doing this?”).
We have that old salt to go by: Writers write because we can’t not write. But is that true? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and think, wouldn’t it be so much simpler if I just didn’t bother? Or worse, sitting down in front of your word process at 9am, you ask yourself and then don’t bother? Shudder.
Sure, we all dream of making it to the New York Times’ Best Seller List. But if that’s why you write, you have my deepest sympathy. Unless you’ve actually made it to the New York Times’ Best Seller List, in which case you have my deepest envy. And admiration, I’ll admit it. But mostly envy.
So here are some reasons why famous people write. Perhaps you’ll find yourself in one of these quotes.
Sir Winston Churchill: “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” OK, if that’s your reason, you’re not a writer, you’re a megalomaniac. Keep looking.
Jack London: “I write for no other purpose than to add to the beauty that now belongs to me. I write a book for no other reason than to add three or four hundred acres to my magnificent estate.” That’s the New York Times’ excuse in spades. You only wrote to make a buck? Really, Jack. Say it ain’t so.
Benjamin Franklin: “If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are rotten, either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing.” Ah, the classic human problem: dealing with death. The best way to cheat death is to leave something lasting behind. So either your kids need to be real go-getters, or you need to write something lasting.
J. K. Rowling: “I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself.” Ah, I really like that one. Write to amuse yourself. Particularly if you can do it, day after day. In fact, if after writing every day for a year you still amuse yourself, you’re a hell of a writer.
Nikki Giovanni: “We write because we believe the human spirit cannot be tamed and should not be trained.” Hmm. I can honestly say I never sat down to write because I felt my human spirit was getting too tame. For me, it would be more like I was deathly afraid my spirit was getting too tame, better write something.
Benjamin Disraeli: “The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.” Relax – that was in the days before Internet. Now there are WAY easier ways to become acquainted with a subject
Here is a series of quotes in support of the “I write because I have to. Hmm. Maybe that does fit the best.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh: “I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.”
Desiderius Erasmus: “The desire to write grows with writing.”
Charlotte Bronte: “I’m just going to write because I cannot help it.”
And my favorite of all. When I found this quote, I just quit looking.
Rita Mae Brown: “The last thing I have to say is that ice is the past tense of water. I’ve always wanted to write that sentence and now I have.”
So, how about you? Why do you write?