Before I delve into posts on genres, writers/books, and writing principles, I want to ask each of you one tiny question. If there was a question to which I could point as being THE most important for writers of any age or experience, it would be this one.
Why do you write? Or, put a slightly different way: why are you a writer?
Everyone’s reasons for writing are unique to them but many follow one or more of several broad themes:
- They have done it instinctively, since they knew what words or stories were, because stories just flow from them. AKA the so-called ‘born writers’.
- They can’t find any of the kind of books they like to read so they write them.
- They have always told stories verbally and as they grew older, writing became a way of telling those stories to a wider audience or preserving the story in a permanent format.
- They decided that being a writer was fun or cool.
For myself personally, it’s a mix of 1 and 3. Someone else I know is a mix of 1 and 2. Another friend is primarily 3.
I don’t think there is a bad motivation for becoming a writer. Unless you began writing so you could learn how to kill people by making words leap off the page and cut them, strangle them, etc. That’s a problem but fortunately for the rest of us, it’s a very difficult skill to learn, so it’s unlikely that you’ll master it in the next hundred years, which means that if it is your motivation, you’ll die before you figure it out and thus your readers don’t have to worry about it. And I don’t have to be concerned about potentially giving people bad ideas that will land me on a watch list somewhere.
Aside from that completely ridiculous reason, there is literally no ‘wrong’ reason for becoming a writer. (There are a few possibly wrong or questionable reasons for becoming an author, but I’ll address those another time.)
Your identity as a writer depends on your response to this question. You might be:
- The kind that only writes for themselves to read.
- The kind that writes for family and friends but doesn’t care about publishing.
- The kind that loves to write and would kind of like to publish someday but isn’t sure they’re good enough.
- The kind who adores stories and is biding their time waiting for the right moment to publish.
- The kind that writes to fill a perceived hole in the literary market.
- The kind that is absolutely sure they know it all and they have it all together and there aren’t many (if any) new things that anyone can teach them. (FYI: if you are that kind, you should probably stop reading this blog right now. I wouldn’t like to give you an aneurysm.)
Whether you were born writing or randomly decided one day to make writing your career, whether you dream of landing a huge publishing deal as soon as possible or plan never to show your stories to another living soul: you need to know the answer to this question because it becomes the foundation for finding your own unique style as a writer. Once you know this, you can build on it to discover your personal writing voice and preferences and from there learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and how to balance them to write well. It is literally crucial to the state of being a writer.
So tell me, why do YOU write?