Why Do You Write?

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I received a post today from good friend, Robert Moulthrop, who writes short stories, plays and screenplays. He informed his readers that his short story “Friends in Need” has won Helen: A Literary Magazine’s inaugural short story competition. Congratulations, Robert!

Robert returned to his passion for creative writing after a long career in public relations. The title of his post is Five Reasons Why I Write.  I first met Robert many years ago when we both toiled in PR, and partnered for a while in a short-lived PR firm. Then we went our separate ways but stayed good friends.

Why Robert Writes

His question made me think: why do I write? And let me ask you, why do you write? Is it something  you love to do, or hate but do it because you can hardly be in any business without having to write a grammatically correct email, letter, proposal — or even a blog post! 

These are Robert’s 5 reasons and then I’ll share mine:

Robert Moulthrop why I write

Robert Moulthrop

    1. I have to write. Without words I am bereft of purpose. There is no place to put the observations that engulf me. What is seen must be captured, assessed, noted, saved, savored, and ultimately share.
    2. I have to tell the truth. Fiction is the bridge to truth. Fiction is truer than truth, truer than everyday life. Story is where I can show not only the liar, but how she lies and why she lies; where he only suddenly becomes self-aware. Story is where people grieve and laugh. Story is where reverberations from the past become manifest in the present, where when we talk about life we are really talking about death.
    3. I can make people listen to the truth. If my writing is true, then my reader, my listener will agree, “Yes, this is true.” And he will smile, or she will nod in that sublime flash of recognition. “Yes, that is the way people act.” “Yes, that is me.” And will continue to listen to me and perhaps to others in new ways.
    4. The writing process is a sublime gift. Nowhere am I more attuned to something greater than myself than when word follows word, when the sentence, now wrong, becomes the sentence now right, becomes the paragraph, becomes the page, becomes the story, becomes the novel. I am conscious of my responsibility to The Cathedral of Words, that my few bricks must add value to the edifice, even as I strive to engage you, make you laugh or weep, but always to have you, my reader, agree that what is written is true.
    5. I write because I can. For a very long time I thought everyone could write, even those who didn’t. I now know that there are many who cannot. Which means I have the obligation to write. Someone passed me the stick, and I am the one standing in front of the campfire, holding forth, interpreting both life and shadow. It’s a responsibility. And it is one that I accept with joy.

Why I Write

I hadn’t given this much thought until I read Robert’s reasons. But now I have. My 5 reasons aren’t as lofty as Robert’s are, but they are just as important to me:

    1. I like to write. I started writing in grade school — not as part of any homework assignment although I wrote those, too — but because it was fun. Back then I wrote a few short (very short) stories. I think then that I knew writing would always be an important part of my life.
    2. I can make a living writing. That’s not so profound as Robert’s second reason but it is the honest truth. When I got to college I decided to major in journalism and English to hone my craft. I edited the college’s evening newspaper (while I was still working and attending night school) and then was lucky to get a job after school with the Long Island Commercial Review, a daily business newspaper. That’s were I learned how to write to meet daily deadlines. It was an unmatched experience that helps me to to this day. Later, I moved to public relations where writing is the principal tool.
    3. I can express my own opinions. It was when I started my blog that I was liberated from the constraints of writing for a company and communicating its messages. Now I could write about what I darn well pleased. And I do.
    4. I write for people who are important in my personal life. I am blessed with a loving family and friends. I like to drop hand-written notes to friends and family to let them know how much they mean to me. And I’m so grateful to the be the recipient of their notes. Letter writing is a dying art form and I’m overjoyed when the mail arrives and I see a hand-written note from a friend.
    5. I write to mentor young people. As a “seasoned” professional, I’m often asked for advice by young professions or from friends and families on their behalf. I help them to learn how to write. Classes in penmanship are long gone. Who writes with a pen or pencil anymore.?It’s sad, but true, that writing courses are no longer a requirement for most college degrees. Many graduates don’t know how to write a sentence with a subject, verb and object. I feel I’m providing a service if I can help to edit their resumes or LinkedIn profiles. This is sort of in line with Robert’s 5th reason. I can so I do.

So that’s my story.

Why Do You Write?

Do you enjoy writing or do you consider it an unpleasant chore? I’d love to know the reasons why you write. Please leave your thoughts in the comment box below. Thank you.

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Comments

  1. Hi Jeannette,

    I really appreciate this post. When someone writes as much as I do it’s a good reminder to sit back and give this one some positive thought.

    Here is why I write:

    1. I am good at it and I enjoy it. On a blog article I might write 2,000 – 2,500 word posts in under two hours. Thoughts, structure… it all comes easy to me because of my undergraduate and graduate school training as well as nine years of experience in my field.

    2. I love to influence people. It’s exciting the power that words have when they are used right and in a positive manner. In my business, influence is the difference between success and failure.

    3. My business requires it. I speak regularly on strategies and internet marketing and writing and speaking go hand-in-hand. I also coach and consult a lot so again writing is a part of it.

    4. It offers validation and credibility. It doesn’t matter in business if someone likes you but you can’t demonstrate you’re competent. My writing exposes my thoughts, skills and shows people how I can help them.

    I suppose that about sums it up. There may be more reasons I write but they are much more personal. In the end, I’ve often thought of writing as a very personal thing between me and the paper or the keyboard.

    I really appreciate the article Jeannette!

    I hope you have an awesome weekend!!!

    ~ Don Purdum

    • Don — thanks for your list. I hadn’t thought about writing to influence people but, of course, that’s what we want to achieve as a writer whether it’s fiction or business writing. Writing is so personal, to be able to put even your most intimate thoughts on paper.

  2. Now this is so weird Jeannette. I’ve been thinking, why do I write? Weird or great minds think alike. I’ll go with the latter and put myself in your and Robert’s company.

    I’ve not gotten as far as 5 reasons – wow, yikes – didn’t know there could be so many.

    When I started thinking about this earlier this week the main reason I write came to me.

    “Writing gives shape to my thoughts.” There are so many thoughts and ideas that pass through my head in any one day, as with all of us. For me, most of them are just ethereal, light and in the air. Poof. Gone. But if I write, they have form. I somehow feel more fulfilled with this form.

    I love this question you ask. Thanks Jeannette.

    • Pat — I’m so glad my post got you thinking about why you write and I love “writing gives shape to my thoughts.” I’d add that as #6 to my list because it’s so on target.

  3. Well I do not write because it comes easy for me- as most of my readers know I’m dyslexic. So while the actual writing process does not come easily, what does come easy is the wonderful memories from my childhood and the lessons I learned from them that have affected all areas of my life. This is the reason I write, the joy I get from recounting those memories and being able to share them with my readers.

    • Susan — it’s apparent that you get great joy from writing your childhood stories. I enjoy them so much and they remind me of stories of my own childhood. Stores are meant to be shared, especially when they’re as well written as yours are.

  4. When I was 21 years old someone I knew asked me to write press releases for him. I did, and it worked so well I was offered a job as a journalist. Ever since then I have written articles on and off. Have mainly worked with top publications world-wide.

    • Catarina — It’s interesting how one incident in our lives — such as someone asking you to write press releases — can change the course of your life. Now you’re a journalist with a global following.

  5. Great post, and I agree it is good to stop from time to time and think about why we write. My number one reason would have to be to understand myself, this is why I started writing in the first place, to work through my thoughts and feelings.

    #2 Like Robert, a definite need to speak the truth.

    #3 Like Don I also enjoy the opportunity to influence others and inspire new thoughts.

    #4 I have often written to entertain my child.

    #5 Simply because I enjoy it.

    • Sarah — I love your final reason: you enjoy it. I believe that’s how we become writers in the first place. You can’t do it well if you don’t enjoy writing.

  6. Great post, Jeannette – it is always good to stop for a moment and think why you are doing what you are doing…

    Most of your reasons are valid for me, too! I won’t give you a full list of why I write (although you inspired me to ask myself that question!) – but I will share a “revelation” so to speak, that I found is true for myself. Blogging helps me maintain my balance.

    I stopped blogging for a while due to lack of time and I found myself grasping for air. To-dos were piling up, my mind wasn’t clear, my productivity decreased… Eventually, I admitted that as much time as it takes, maintaining my own blogs (or at least one of them!) helps me get rid of stress. For me, it is a form of self-completion (if there’s even such a word).

    Thanks for writing and sharing!

    • Diana — How interesting that you find that blogging rids you of a stress. Most bloggers find writing a blog to be very stressful! I always find helpful tips in your posts.

  7. I write to organize and share my thoughts and knowledge, to affiliate and bond, and because it’s something I’ve done since I was 3.

    • Eve — sharing your knowledge and influencing people seem to be a recurring theme for everyone. That’s why we blog.

  8. Jeannette – I think about writing all the time. I feel blessed that unlike some people who “think about it,” I actually do it and earn decently from it. Wow, my heart’s desire was to go to journalism school but was discouraged from doing so “because you can’t make a living from it.” That is, of course, an old familiar story for a lot of people whose first love was words.

    So, I write because I can. I write because I’m good at it. I write because I love to say what I think (written and spoken). I write because I have a lot of interests and I can write, research and learn about each of them (and combine them, sometimes).

    I’m a techie, so oftentimes I write to demystify technology.

    And like Robert, I write to influence what others think and do, especially when I feel they should know something or go another way.

    How many was that? I’m sure there are more, but I should probably “write” my own article! 🙂

    • Vernessa — I love your reasons and I enjoy your very well written blog. You are a good writer so no surprise that you can earn a decent living.

  9. I write because it helps me make sense of the world. That’s always been my motivation. Everything else is just writing on the cake. In a way, all the writing I produced while on scholarship in graduate school was the best form of therapy I could have asked for.

    • Jeri — I never thought of writing as therapy. But it is. My tribute to my late brother was a form of therapy. It celebrated his life but helped me to express my deep sense of loss.