Why Do You Write?




When you first decide you’d like to write, I believe a slight shift takes place in your brain. You are no longer a mere participant in life - you are now a recorder of it.


And that makes you different, special if you like.


Some writers are drawn to writing for its own sake – and get sucked into the sheer joy of being creative, of making something out of nothing, order out of chaos.


Others have been inspired to write by events that have happened to them – usually unpleasant ones.


Many great writers, from Shakespeare to Stephen King have been scarred in some way – whether by life or by themselves. Stephen King admits to alcoholism in his book “On Writing”. Shakespeare, it is said, was perhaps a closet homosexual. There are countless other examples.


Feeling like an outsider is definitely common amongst writers, especially novices. I suspect most of us write to assert some kind of power over something we don’t like or don’t approve of, or something we think is wrong.


In a way, all writers try to create a perfect world for themselves (even those who write non-fiction) perhaps because they see nothing but imperfection and inconsistency around them.


The urge to write would therefore seem to be borne out of a sense of dissatisfaction: with life, with its apparent lack of meaning and happy endings. Perhaps mostly, we are dissatisfied with ourselves, and how we never seem to live up to our own expectations.


But this is not all bad.


Because I believe that out of this dissatisfaction can come objectivity, and from that can come some degree of enlightenment – and great art.


Becoming a writer is a statement you make to the world.


You are no longer passive, taking what life throws at you. In a sense, you become a controller of your reality, and by implication, your destiny.


My mother once told me she thought writing a novel was a triumph of tenacity over intelligence. Who would want to do it? And why, she wanted to know. Only a writer really knows. 


The irony, of course, is that my mother reads avidly – and all sorts of fiction. Romances, thrillers, crime novels, whatever she can lay her hands on. When I ask her why, she says… to escape.


Exactly, I say to her, that’s also why writers write.


To escape...and perhaps create a better world.


Órobparnell 2003