Oh, for about a gazillion reasons! Some serious, lots of goofy ones too. And we really all may be crazy to boot :). But whether a famous Texas author or a not-so-famous one from Brazil, the reasons writers write are as unique and personal as each one penning something on the page.
Here’s a short list:
They have something to say
We all do, no? Writers just actually put it on paper.
They love books and words
Oh, God, I hope we all do!
To help them make sense of some event in their lives
Even Hemingway said he got over a lot of things by writing them out.
To change the world (yep, insane as that might sound!)
You have to be somewhat starry eyed to do this!
It’s such a glamorous life
To see their names in print
Some arrogance actually helps you stay in this crazy game.
To become rich
To be read
Ahhh, how writers love when people read their books!
Even more when they review! We can live off of a good review for a long time.
To leave something tangible at the end of this life
We all want that, no? Some marker that says, “I was here.”
Because they must
And of course, an entire litany of reasons exist.
Funny thing, this writing life. You actually spend the vast majority of it (99.9%) in your quiet, hopefully well-lighted room, as Hemingway called it. Alone. In solitary confinement.
The writing itself just has to be done in silence.
But also funny enough, it’s that other .1% that takes out most writers. The querying of agents. If you do sign with one (the vast majority of writers never do), then the agent querying publishers. All the rejections that come with this. Then, after publication, the criticism in negative reviews.
And that doesn’t even mention all the promotion, which is an entire job in itself.
Putting your baby out into the world is always a humbling experience. Even for the most famous Texas authors, and those from around the world, working today.
Because no writer is every reader’s cup of tea.
Often, it’s awkward for friends and/or family to read an author’s book. They hesitate, because, well, they just didn’t like it. And this most often comes back to they prefer other genres. Which is perfectly fine. If you love Chinese food and hate Mexican and I take you to Joe T. Garcia’s, I won’t be surprised when you complain J
Likewise, if you normally read Category Romance, or Spy Thrillers, or Sci/Fi, or Cozy Mysteries, you’re not gonna like my books very much. It’s okay! I already know that.
Rejection is a given in this business. Writers write despite it.
What authors strive for is to find their audience. To reach those who do read in their genre. All we ask for is that those folks find us, and give us a read. Wherever those chips fall, well, is where they fall.
We’ll beg for your review anyway 🙂
You can’t imagine the number of writers I’ve seen come and go. Stars in their eyes; the dream of fame and fortune on their horizon. For every writer I know who has stuck with it, 200 more have fallen away. I work with so many authors as well, and see this every day.
Because if you write for any or all of the first 9 reasons, and not the 10th, the fortitude to stick with it proves elusive.
Ten years ago, I allowed this business to break my heart. My literary agent could not get my new novel sold. We received the most beautiful rejections from major publishers you can imagine. They loved it—loved the characters, the story, the writing. But the business was changing, and what NY publishers wanted were huge, break-out books (they still do). The midlist author died.
And yep, my heart got broken and for a while, I couldn’t write. My courage took a hike and horror of horrors, I just quit for a bit.
I went insane though.
Because even if I didn’t write them out, characters were still enacting stories in my head. Playing their parts, even if I refused to play mine.
Nobody ever said writers were the most stable of folks!
But I realized then, I couldn’t not write. It is my world. My true love. As my pastor-friend said (and still does), “It’s your form of prayer.”
And now my agent is shopping to publishers my new novel J
Yep. I never feel closer to the divine than when I’m writing.
Oh, and that book we couldn’t sell? It was picked up by a small publisher, and had a great run. I own the rights back now, and it’s soon to be published as an author’s edition. I Just Came here to Dance will be out again soon!
The fabulous Texas author Chris Manno talks some about this in our recent newsletter as well. If you haven’t read Chris, you’re missing a real treat!
So why do writers write? For a lot of reasons. But the ones who stick it out, write because they must J
As the poet Rainer Marie Rilke said, in Letters to a Young Poet:
“This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity . . .”
And our July giveaway of cool Texas and wine stuff drew lots of entries! Mr Green drew the winner from a hat
Kristine Hall, of Lone Star Literary Life. How fitting! Don’t forget to come join in the fun for August!
This Post Has 8 Comments
Robyne3 Aug 2019
Hello Susan, I enjoyed reading your Why Writers Write, very much. You have put down most of the reasons, and I said yes to them all. You mentioned not getting people to read your works, and that is of course true, it is hard. We can say, “I’m an author, I’ve just written an exciting book.” and 9 times out of 10 — or maybe 10 times out of 10, they won’t even raise their eyebrows, and far be it from anyone to say any of: “Gee, can I read the manuscript? What genre do you write in? Wow, an author, I must buy your book!” LOL And yet, when my friends tell me of their latest book I can’t wait to run and buy one to support them. I am getting a little tired of that now though, because not one author friend or anyone else — certainly not family – have ever wanted to enjoy mine, and to tell the truth, I believe the first one (only one so far) I’ve published is as good, or better than, any of those I spent my money on and took my time to give reviews. We authors are such a lonely lot. LOL
Susan Malone27 Aug 2019
It is often amazing how friends and family don’t support you, isn’t it, Robyne. I think folks just don’t understand how difficult this whole process is, and how close to our souls our writing is. But then, just one nice word from someone, or one review of your book from someone who “got” it, well, we can live on that for a year!
Patricia J La Vigne3 Aug 2019
I don’t think I could add anything to this inspiring article, Susan. I write because—all the reasons you just gave. And yes, I felt the pain of rejection. I even almost responded to an editor of an article I submitted to a Texas magazine, which he didn’t accept. Instead he sent me a rather lengthy article he had published previously, somewhat on the same subject–Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, TX. But my article was about the addition to that ranch of the Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center. I felt he missed the point. But I let it go. At least he did respond personally to my submission. Something other authors might want to remember. Don’t let angry or frustrated feelings get in the way of a rejection and the editor who sent it. That editor might become your best friend from other submissions he might accept from you.
Susan Malone27 Aug 2019
So true, Patricia! Any time an editor responds personally, it means he saw something in your work. And that editor just may buy from you down the road!
Dave Quirk6 Aug 2019
There are as many reasons to write as there are writers. There are more reasons NOT to write than there are TO write. We need to upgrade the fence around the pasture, build up our cash kitty to cover the ever-escalating price of hay, and spring for an ATV to quicken the mucking and save time . . . for writing. Three good reasons right there! Shoot, I have better odds of winning a lottery jackpot than getting a first novel published. Another good reason, So, why write? Because I’ve got to TRY. That Teddy Roosevelt quote of being “in the arena” and making the effort comes to mind. I’m doing just that . . . without any illusions. For the moment my slim odds are in your hands, But you’re an editor, Sue, not a magician; you can fix stories, you can’t resuscitate them. That said, being in this arena is exactly where I want to be.
Susan Malone27 Aug 2019
Very well said, Dave! And that’s it in a nutshell–we have to stay in the arena!
Judy28 Aug 2019
I must write. The world of romance novels, science fiction, historical fiction and the like are not what I need to write. I need to teach people. Help them succeed in a world where they are in excruciating physical pain. I know it’s possible. It’s my life. With people behind you that truly believe in you and want you to get your book out, you are able to do your best.
Susan has always been an inspiration. When she believes in you, you can soar like an eagle.
I have to write. It brings light to my world. We all need some light, don’t we?
Thank you, Susan!
Susan Malone28 Aug 2019
And you have so much to teach, Judy! We DO all need some light!
And thank you 🙂