Posted in Of Writingly

Of Why We Write

writing scrabble

A few years ago I had attended a couple of writing workshops, within a few weeks of each other. Both had been with exciting, well-loved writers of the Fantasy genre. Despite being genre-specific, there were many aspects of the workshops that were genre-neutral. One such genre-neutral question was, “Why do you want to write?” In the first workshop, I gave my honest, idealistic but truthful answer, “because it feels primary to me.” A few smirks and rolling of eyes immediately followed, as my face burnt and my instructor shrugged it off, to go into the ‘business’ of it all. In the next workshop, when asked the same question, my flip-and-glib reply was, “because I never learnt to do anything else.” This time, I had managed to entertain. Most laughed, some even clapped. As did my instructor, who said, “Clever, but not correct.” His own answer was, “because you have to. Because you have the urge to say something.” The more acceptable answers by other participants in both workshops were the same. They wanted to “express” themselves, and they loved certain writers and wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Is it necessary to ask yourself why you want to write, just because you’ve decided to? You care enough about it to spend money on it, and allow instructors and peers to critique your work anyway they want to. Writing classes and workshops haven’t been around that long. If you look at the history of literature, they’ve barely been around for 5% of it. Not in a formalised way, certainly. Ever since writing has been invented, it has been a skill. There was a time when people wrote pages and pages of letters, to multiple people for multiple purposes, because that is what they had to do. There was a time when people read books not to appear erudite, but because they wanted to. They actually loved it. Writing exists because reading exists. Writing exists because there is someone to read it. Even if it’s a personal diary, where the only intended reader is the writer himself. Even if it is a novel, where the only intended reader is anybody out in the great unknown.

I can’t ever say that I write to express myself. It sounds a little arrogant to me, for myself. I don’t mean to offend the general writing populace, who are of that ‘express yourself’ view. But, it feels inauthentic to me. Because, even if I do manage to say it, it will always be followed by, who cares about what I want to express?

I don’t want to follow in the footsteps of other writers either. Partly, because it also seems arrogant (again, for myself. I am not criticizing you if that’s how you feel about it) to think I can emulate, to the slightest degree, anybody I’ve ever read. And partly, because I don’t want to. Here, I do agree with another tenet of creative writing literature – find your voice. ‘The Next Jane Austen’ sounds like a great idea on paper but, I’d rather be ‘The One and Only Amrita Sarkar’.

So, why do I write? This time in my life, the practical answer and the idealistic, shall we say, soul answer, converge to say the following – it is the only thing I enjoy doing, that I am good at, good enough IMO, to make a living out of. I write because I enjoy writing. I enjoy putting words on a blank page, erasing them, putting them back again, until I see something that starts to have a life of its own. I don’t want to express myself in writing because I don’t want my writing to be about me. I have given more than enough of ‘me’ to this blog anyway, but try running a blog steadily for a year and then tell me what you do when you find yourself running out of ideas nearly everyday.

I’ve been thinking about joining a creative writing course. Primarily because I want to get serious and be committed to writing. I want to stop making excuses and be in an atmosphere where writing something and getting it done is the only option. I haven’t worked out the logistics yet. The where, how and when of it all. I am usually a DIY kind of person when it comes to most things, but I need some external motivation. As most of you know, writing courses don’t come cheap and can’t ever guarantee success, which in my case is quite mercenary – I want to write well enough to make a living out of it. Now, is that a good enough answer for a writing class?

Why do you write?


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

5 thoughts on “Of Why We Write

    1. Very true. That should be the reason, really. Many published authors would have us believe there is some calculation involved. That anybody willing to invest in writing (for it does require a lot of time and money to have a book out) should do it for reasons more than that. It may not seem noble, but a number of writers do end up being successful with this approach.

  1. I write because I need to. It’s part of who I am by now. But it seems peculiar, to say the least, to suggest that my motivation for writing must be everyone else’s motivation for writing! Your instructor’s “correct” ideas make my skin crawl. o.O

    1. Ha ha! He was nicer than the first one though. Both are very successful in the Fantasy genre, which itself is successful. It was interesting to see their opposite approaches to writing. Writing workshops can be quite discouraging, if you don’t have absolute confidence in what you write, and especially if you can’t talk about it. There is a lot of talking involved. However, I feel I need to be less shy about my writing, and I need to learn to promote my work better. These are things you can learn from classes, even if it can’t always help you make your work better.
      Thanks for reading!

  2. Best line in this: “I’d rather be the one and only Amrita Sarkar.” Love it. Thanks for sending me the link to this post. It’s nice to read more about your motivations and see how they are similar to and different from my own.

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