Bruce Robert Coffin here, hoping you’re all having a terrific spring.
This month I want to discuss the why of writing. People often ask what it is about writing that I enjoy. Why do I do it? Hmm. How much time do you have?
There are no easy answers to that question. The truth is, my answer might vary on any given day. Some days I write simply to quiet the voice in my head. You know the one. The voice that needs to be heard, usually around two or three in the AM when we’re suppose to be able to unplug and give that old gray matter a bit of rest. In my case, as I suspect is also the case with other writers, there is usually more than one voice.
Once created, our characters can be as annoying real as anyone in the physical world. And they speak, often demanding to be heard. I may have ideas in store for my characters with which they disagree, or perhaps they agree but have their own thoughts on how to take those ideas further, or in other directions. Writing quiets the voices. Usually. This may sound crazy to some, but it’s true. Don’t believe it? Next time you bump into your favorite author ask them, preferably during a one on one conversation not while standing in line at a book signing. You don’t want to be dragged out of the event kicking and screaming by the nice folks in the long white lab coats.
“Excuse me. We’d like you to come with us. We have some nice stuffed animals for you to play with.”
Also, suggesting that I told you to ask won’t save you either. It may only serve to get both of us assigned to the same padded room at the farm.
There are other reasons I write. Sometimes it’s just cool to hang out in the imaginary worlds I’ve created. It’s what we writers of fiction do. Probably not a whole lot different than a child playing make believe. Exploring one’s imagination for the purpose of writing is very much like that, only with a more sophisticated and developed sense of prose. Usually. Jumping into the car with my protagonist, Sergeant Byron, as he races to catch a bad guy is still thrilling for me. I don’t always know how things will play out and that’s the fun of it. I can’t wait to find out which of my characters is about to beam down to the planet as a part of the landing party, wearing a red shirt, never to be seen again. Those of you who didn’t get that reference need to report directly to the principal’s office. Principal Roddenberry wants to see you. You’re about to be fitted for a red shirt. To the rest of you, live long, write well, and prosper.
I write to find out which of my characters is about to do something dumb? Isn’t that one of the great turning points for any plot? Or even life for that matter? While we may have composed a detailed synopsis for our novel to follow, seldom does it. Like real life, courses are often deviated from. Plans change. Remember that awesome quote about life being what happens while your busy making other plans? Sometimes a great story happens while we’re busy writing a different one. The unknown is the very thing that makes writing enjoyable. Writing a story is much like reading one, only a hell of a lot more work (and please remember that when your writing a scathing review, after spending eight hours reading a book that likely took a year, or two, or three to write). If we as writers already knew how every little thing turns out in our novel, it wouldn’t be half as much fun to write, now would it?
Sometimes I write because I have something to say. I think that’s basically true for almost everything I write. Occasionally, the meaning may be hidden amid an exciting, or scary, or somber storyline, but it’s almost always there. Were there no message, what would be the point?
I write to share experiences, both good and bad. It might be my attempt to impart a bit of wisdom, and believe me if it’s more than just a bit you should ask for your money back. Maybe I’m hoping to share lesson about life, or try and bring reason and perspective to some volatile topic of the day. Or maybe I only wish to share literary images from one of my playful romps through the Maine woods.
Mostly I write because I love it. I write to entertain. I love sharing ideas with others, evoking emotion through words and phrases. I love the telling of the stories. I write because I must.
Are you a writer? What motivates you?
Great post, Bruce. In my MFA program, we had a course called Aesthetics, where, among other things, we explored why and how we wrote. I believe that Writers Write Because We’re Writers. We dream of fame and fortune (wouldn’t that be nice), but we really do it because it fills some internal need we writers have.
I’m glad you have that same need as I do.
Thanks, Brian! And you’re right. If we only did it for fame and fortune, there would be very few people writing… 😉
Your thoughts on the “why” of writing are refreshing reminders of the motivations for, and joys and redemptive value of, writing and expressing oneself — even if it is never seen in print, except by the writer and a few friends. Of course, I agree publication is a wonderful dream and great when it happens.
But, when you’re slogging along, mired in the difficult work, trying to overcome inertia and procrastination, what you have articulated helps a lot.
Thank you, David. I’m glad you found it helpful.
Bruce, An enjoyable post, one many of us can identify with. I write by the seat of my pants and always look forward to seeing where the story goes, much like reading a good novel. I am nearing the end of my fifth novel and have bogged down and am left wondering why. Sometimes I wonder if I am uncomfortable finishing it or have the writing gods abandoned me. I think I might need a swift kick in the backside.
Thank you, Russell. Here’s hoping your muse stops by tonight and delivers that much needed kick! 🙂
Bruce, nice piece on the “why.” It put me in mind of the young person, who with spiked hair of a different color, seeking so hard for individuality, only to come to the ultimate conclusion that he is very much like everyone else. Still, that same young person dares to express, put him or herself out there.
So, it would seem you stirred the pot, and in the last five words rendered its essence, “I write because I must.” Bravo!