Why Writers Write

Reasons for writing

Asked why they write, individuals cite a wide range of reasons. Every author has a primary motivation, a guiding sense of purpose. Furthermore, there is a motivation for every work created. Sometimes a writer does not know the motivation for some a work until it is completed.

In three to five minutes, list your reasons for writing. Brainstorm, writing anything that enters your mind.

Reasons for Writing

Admittedly, there are a multitude of potential motivations for writing, but to simplify this discussion of motivation, we will address four primary classifications:

  1. To inform others
  2. To inform one’s self
  3. Necessity or reward
  4. Ego

Informing Others

“To inform” embodies many concepts. In its most simplistic use, to inform is to impart unbiased information. However, to inform can mean to persuade, and it usually does. The information delivery process proceeds through a series of filters until a biased set of facts reach a target audience.

Biases are not inherently wrong. Without biases life would be a series of impossible equal choices. A science text cannot present every theory in a field, so some are omitted. The omissions represent the biases of the writers and editors of the text.

Consider the possible definitions of inform as they relate to the first two types of motivation. Compare these to your reasons for writing. To inform is to:

  • teach
  • state
  • reveal to
  • divulge to

Informing Yourself

Journeys of self-discovery can produce fascinating literature. When you write, you always reveal a part of you. Writing with the intent of self-exploration results in powerful, emotional writing.

Most self-discovery is spiritual, philosophical, or familial. Artists seek answers to questions without universal answers, yet these personal quests tend to reveal greater insights.

Writers who feel a need to write generally seek answers to personal questions. This need is not the business or academic necessities discussed next.

Necessity

Most people first experience writing as a necessity — an academic mandate. Studies have revealed that while most children draw for pleasure well into elementary school, writing for pleasure is rare. By high school, the number of visual artists and writers are equal. In time, the number of visual artists declines.

Economic necessity dictates that many individuals write. Business writing and, to a lesser extent, academic publishing force those with no passion for words to utilize language as best they can.

A handful of independent writers also claim economic necessity. Choices having been made, these unhappy individuals assault society with mediocre works. Thankfully, we can choose not to read or view their works.

Ego

Writers, like other artists, need strong egos. It is not easy to deal with criticism and rejection, both commonly encountered by artists. A strong ego is the writer’s only true defense. Friends, family, and colleagues might offer kind words, but their kindness does not help a writer’s career. Ego can be as important as talent.

Ego presents itself in many forms. It is likely one or more appear in your list or reasons for writing.

  1. I have something to say
  2. My writing is better than some I have read
  3. I want a legacy

Exercise

Write a brief explanation of why you write, honestly considering your motivations.

Every Reason for Writing

In truth, most writers are motivated by a bit of every reason discussed. They want to inform others, explore their own opinions, experience a reward, and think they have something to say.



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Writer: C. S. Wyatt
Updated: 27-May-2014
Editor: S. D. Schnelbach