Why Write Anyways?

So why should I write?

This is the question that plagues me lately. I have wanted to be a writer for a long time. I have actually written one novel (not published, only as far as first draft) and have started many others. I have a strong desire to write, but I am trying to figure where this desire is coming from and if it’s for the right purpose.

I don’t think I am looking for anyone to convince me either way. I know I am the only one who can make the ultimate decision. But I am curious…

Why do you write?

I feel like the more people that answer this the more helpful it will be. It might even be helpful to others. BTW, I’m new to posting in the forum and also new to Scrivener, although I did sign up for the forum a while ago.

I like Flannery O’Connor’s answer: Because I like to and I’m good at it.

Many writers will tell you that if you even have to ask the question, you probably shouldn’t write, or at least shouldn’t worry too much about publication. The world is unlikely to care about another unwritten novel more or less, and the financial rewards for writing are often minimal or nonexistent. So really your own satisfaction is the only reward you can count on. If that’s not enough, then why bother?


So that every girlfriend who has ever dumped me will see the glowing review in the Guardian, spit out their coffee and exclaim, “Woe is me! What have I done? Only let slip the most amazing human being to walk the face of the Earth, that’s what!” Whereupon she will faint, turn up at my book signing, and I will be all suave and polite, yet a little bit distant and enigmatic, and I’l shake her hand and pretend to have forgotten her name, and…


Actually, I didn’t get the desire to write until I was about 19 or 20 (not quite half a life ago…). I got the urge from the same thing within me that made me create Scrivener - only Scrivener was much easier. The urge is a simple, “Ooh, I like that, wonder how it works, what makes it tick; wonder if I can make one…?” When I was a kid, I took apart my Star Wars figures and got my dad to help paint them and put them together in different ways (X-wing pilot: removed head, glued on Luke Skywalker’s, painted the hair brown, painted a thimble white and red, cut a bit out and inserted a strip cut from a photo negative - voila, Wedge Antilles with a removable helmet :slight_smile: ). Later, I sat around sketching my own designs for Transformers. When I read comics, I started writing and drawing my own. When I got a ZX Spectrum, I tried to make my own games. When I got a computer, I took it apart and later built my own (that’s why I got a Mac - so I couldn’t keep messing up my computer like that). And when I looked at writing software, nothing quite fit for me so I decided to learn how to write my own: Scrivener.

Blah, blah, blah. But it was the same thing with writing: When I was 19 or 20, I was at university and suffering my usual insomnia. So a friend suggested I read myself to sleep. In the past I had fallen in love with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books and I’d loved reading as a kid, but GCSE and A-Level English Literature had put me right off reading, so this idea seemed novel to me. My friend gave me Slaughterhouse 5 to read. I had no idea literature could be like that, and I had exactly the same reaction as I do to anything else I like - I wanted to create something like that. (I owe that friend a lot - I spent my early twenties consuming literature classic and modern and went on to study Chaucer etc…)

Anyway, that’s why I choose to write. It’s also why I find it so hard - technically, I’m not bad, if I do say so myself. I realised when I left uni that I was technically dreadful (the joys of a 70s & 80s state education), so I bought some old fashioned grammar books and educated myself in decent sentence construction. But putting together a sustained story that holds anyone’s interest… Well, that’s something different. It’s not like taking apart and building a new computer, or learning a programming language, designing an application and putting it together step-by-step. It’s all a bit nebulous. But that’s another matter…

All the best,

I think many writers - me being one of them - have this moment when they’re reading something and think: That sucks. I could have done better than that!

Most prefer to keep it this way - they are sure they could have done better, but they don’t prove it. They are the same people who consider themselves a way better coach for the national soccer team, of course. :wink:

Others sit down and write. Then some of them have to realize that, in fact, they can’t do better. Still, they might continue to write, because they enjoy the process.

And some are better.

But they are few, and not all of them get published and/or successful in the end.

Me - I just keep writing, because I suck at most other things.

I can’t remember who said this:

“It’s easy to write. It’s much more difficult to write well.”

That said, writing well is a craft. Like any craft, it can be learned if you’re prepared to put time and effort into it.

Many years ago I worked in a literary agency that specialised in film, theatre, and television scriptwriting. Each week, an average of a thousand unsolicited manuscripts arrived in the post. Most, if not all, were written by people who subscribed to the notion that “It’s easy to write.”

I worked at that agency for a year. I can count on one hand the number of unsolicited scripts that showed any evidence of craft.

Kind regards.

It’s the only thing I’m good at that people will pay me for.

It’s the only thing I really enjoy that people will pay me for.


Sadly, I think this when I read my own writing. :frowning:

Funny, that’s why I write too!

Joking aside, my answer is the same as most other writers I know; I can’t not write, and it’s been like that for as long as I can remember. I may as well try to quit smoking. If I go more than a couple of days without writing anything new, I become the grumpiest bastard you’ve ever met.

Writing is inherently narcissistic as we believe that what we think, put into writing, makes a contribution to the world.

The sooner we move onto graffiti and related practices and have a proper audience the sooner we will get better.

Yours in recovery and 12 stepping,


Inner urgency to do so. Stories and characters pressuring. The pleasure of forging well-sounding sentences.

I love words, I love stories, I love to create.

When I was young, stories saved me, so I view creating new stories to be one of the “higher good things” one can do.

I started writing seriously when I was 12. It must have appeared very seriously to my family, because they started to warn me: “You have to learn something real, because one can’t make a living from writing.” So I went to university after school, and writing dimmed down to keeping a diary (and writing software). It was not because I had too much to do but because I in fact saw no way to go; I was not content with what I had written and it appeared impossible to me ever to become published.

It was when I was confronted with death - my father died, then my grandfather died - when it occured to me that in fact my life will end one day, and I realized that there was one thing I would not be able to forgive myself on my deathbed: If I had never really tried to publish a novel.

This sounds kind of silly when you write it down, but in fact it was dead serious as a realization, and it fueled my writing with relentless motivation. Today I do make a living from writing. But that’s not the point. The point is that I realized what I really wanted to do in life, and I started doing it. This is rewarding in itself.

I think if one is uncertain whether writing “is it” or not (and in a lot of cases I know I believe it is not, and the person is only suffering from a dream), one should ask oneself seriously what one would do given that a doctor tells one has only six months to live: Would one feel the urge to write a novel, at least one? Or would one fell the urge to do something else (sail across the Atlantic, confess one’s love to someone…)? If so, than maybe writing isn’t it.

I love the sheer power that bursts from a great piece of writing. I read these gems every day. Sometimes it’s just a word, maybe a sentence, occasionally a larger work. So I suspect that power has something to do with it.

I cannot resist a good story. This applies to non-fiction as much as it does to fiction. Most of my writing is for businesses, and when I do a notably effective job it’s clear that I tied down and expressed the story.

The story thing is a big driver because I see the world full of ‘what ifs’. So I want to know how the story would develop and end if it experienced an alteration, even a seemingly small one.

Power, story and a desire to see how it will end are the things that make me want to write.

I don’t spend much time thinking about it because I have bigger questions to answer. Why do I not write more? Why does it intimidate me? Why do I let a day pass without writing?

How I agree with you, Pelao. Whatever I write, I try to get a good narrative drive going through it. Even my very shaky CV used to get a good response because I told a story… it hooked would-be employers because they wanted to find out the rest.

A letter, a memo, an email: if you’re a writer you get the reader wanting to know more. And, if you’re lucky, they’ll go out and buy the book…


Great replies…thanks so much everyone. I feel the juices starting to flow. I would say I have some thinking to do too.

Thanks again. If anyone else has more to add please do :smiley:

I write because inside I have a story. I want to put it out in a tangible form for myself to read.

I write for me. Publishing is an after thought

Because it’s less painful than not writing?

I was just badly potty trained. What else could I do?

I’m going to mis-read this question as why do you make art/performances/music/writing? Just to broaden this out.

I could give you a whole load of answers, all of which would be absolutely true, but that wouldn’t tell the whole story.

For example:

When I make theatre, I want to create a sense of togetherness amongst everyone in the room, in a rare sense of communial spirit that our day and age has taught us to neglect.
When I make music, I want someone, somewhere to listen to it, and feel less alone.
I write to express myself
I photograph things, to document them as honestly as I can, and to trigger memories in myself; or subconscious impulses in other viewers.

But at the end of the day, I don’t really know.
I had Writers block for over 1.5 years a little while ago and I felt physically sick with it; it felt like I was going to explode with all these unwritten songs in me, whole albums waiting to explode out of me like the baby in Alien; but they’d have to force their way out and I had no way of midwifing them in the world. I suppose, having had this experience, I know what it’s like if I don’t write, and know that it’s so vital that I carry on.