Why Do Writers Write?

Hello SE friends, Gwen with you today to explore the question, “Why do writers write?” To begin I will share a quote that stirred my thoughts about this topic.

On December 5, 1976, the New York Times published an article by author Joan Didion. In it, Didion described why she writes. I only became aware of her article a couple of weeks ago, but here’s the section that caught my attention:

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. Why did the oil refineries around the Carquinez Straits seem sinister to me in the summer of 1956? Why have the night lights in the Bevatron (particle accelerator) burned in my mind for twenty years? What is going on in these pictures in my mind?”

When I read this article, I was left with questions about why I write and then realized that my approach is similar to Didion’s. I’ve always asked a lot of questions and struggled to understand, and often writing leads to answers. I’ll explain.

Photo from Canva

My first book is a memoir. It helped me process a journey that shaped much of my life. But the next three books are military thrillers. Never could I have imagined writing them. The first of the three surfaced because of a series of dreams, and thankfully, John Howell jumped in as the co-author. But the next two books evolved because of the questions that lingered – about the reasons for war and who profits, about oil and who controls it, about elected officials and their investments. These questions – and many others – took me kicking and screaming into a world I did not know existed.

If you were to visit my office, you’d find ancient religious icons and other religious artifacts. It is a place of prayer for me, as well as the room in which I write. For two years, large maps of Europe, the Middle East, Russia, China, and the United States covered one wall. I studied these maps, identified nuclear sites and Level 4 labs, and followed military deployments. I doubt I could have done this, except through prayer, because I’m probably the most unlikely person anywhere to write about such matters.

Going back to Didion, I relate to her underlying need to understand and the compelling desire to share through writing. When I uncovered the answers to the questions mentioned above, I wanted to stand on a mountain top and yell my findings to the world. It was that upsetting. Instead, I crafted fictional thrillers that housed real truths.

But there are other reasons I enjoy writing, and most are commonly shared. I’ve listed a few of them below. I hope you’ll consider them with me and let me know if they resonate with you as well.

Photo from Canva

I write, we write …

  • To dream – to imagine a world different from our experience, to travel, to forget, to be somewhere else and maybe someone else.
  • To leave a legacy, something concrete that will say, “I lived, I tried, here’s part of me.”
  • To connect with others, find community, and share our journey, even though we may never meet.  
  • To enjoy the challenge and the aesthetics of good prose and rhyme.
  • To face the fear of failure and prove to ourselves that we can do it.
  • To find ourselves, our purpose, the reason for our life.
  • To create something beautiful, magical, meaningful, even memorable.

So dear friends, do any of these resonate? Please share what stirs your imagination and prompts you to create a scene and build a story. This list needs to grow and I’d love to add your motivations to it.

I hope you have a wonderful week. I’ll be back next month. Till then…

136 thoughts on “Why Do Writers Write?

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  5. Wonderful post, Gwen, and thanks for the Didion quote.

    My answer to why I write is “all of the above.” Every single reason you mentioned plus those everyone else added, too. But mostly because I started writing long poems at age five and didn’t want to quit. I wanted to put beautiful words on paper that made people smile, or brought tears to their eyes. Or both. And even though I didn’t actually start pursuing that dream until very late in my life, that’s still what I want to do for as long as I possibly can–give readers a laugh or two, a sniffle here and there, or a surprise now and then, and do it all by introducing characters they grow to care about.

    Thanks for a super post and the great discussion it generated, my friend! 🤗💖🤗

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much, Marcia. I love your poems and your books, because of all the reasons you’ve listed. Each beautifully captures an aspect of your heart. What a gift! You make miracles real. 💗

      Liked by 2 people

      • Aw, thanks so much, Gwen. It does my heart good to know you feel that way. I never dreamed I’d ever really write an actual, sure ’nuff book, and now, I never want to stop. Reckon I’ll keep going for as long as I can still remember what words are. 😄 And people like you are one of the main reasons why I won’t give up. Bless you and thank you for your many kindnesses. You are the miracle! 💖💖💖

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Gwen, thanks for sharing.
    Since young, I shared stories that I imagined while looking at the clouds.
    Like the passing clouds, I tell and the stories were soon forgotten.
    I write in attempt to keep a record of my outrageous imaginations, as well as to improve writing in English.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Wow that is amazing. I write because it gives me comfort my blog is my safe space. I feel happy when I write. I love the experience of writing and people interacting with the content that makes me very happy.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Great post, 👍🏽. Admit it provoke me to think about why I start writing🤔?

    First of all I am 15 year old student from india and I’m also new here, so sorry if my english is poor. and this topic caught my attention simply..

    For me majority of your thoughts are also common in me plus it gave me a another personality with so much powers whereas I don’t have any limits. I can breath as i am.. It gave me the voice which i am hiding all along and wings for I can fly how much I want, far from reality…

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I write because the worlds and characters are taking up too much room in my head and getting them down on paper allows some breathing room before the next set of “guests” turn up demanding their story be told. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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  11. Great post Gwen, as a Writer or Blogger I can relate to this topic. There are many reasons why I write and why other writers write. For me, I write because it is my passion since I was in school I loved to write. Also, I write to connect with the community like you pointed out here and also to create an image or dream in the mind of a reader to visualize through the power of words 💯

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  12. That’s a very good question that fits well on this platform! I write for many of the things you mention in your list, but an important one for me, that isn’t in your list, is that I write as a form of exposure therapy. I’m quite insecure, and worry about what people think. For this reason I don’t dance or sing when others are around, and I rarely share artwork I make with others. Writing is something I’ve loved since forever, but I was/am always worried about what others think, even in my daily job as an ecologist (scientific writing). I write to numb that feeling, and must say that it pays off. I’m still not careless, but I do care less :).

    Thanks for the nice post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Robin, for sharing this rather profound reason for writing. Even though most of us will never meet, we get to know one another’s interests through their writing and call them “friends”. Like you, I’ve found the writers’ community incredibly supportive. Thank you, again!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I loved this Gwen. I think us writers are all curious souls. We write to share our thoughts, what we know, what we’re curious about, and for me to get things out of my head onto paper and hope what comes out either educates or resonates with readers. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  14. There is no one reason that I write. I love doing it and it gives me time away from the real world. And when I am writing, I am learning. The research associated with writing teaches so much.

    I started writing when I was young, and wrote a story with my best friend about her haunted house. That’s a story for another time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’d love to hear about your friend’s haunted house, Michele. It sounds like a story with writing. 💗 Thank you for stopping by and adding to the conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for this post. I think all of the reasons you stated resonate strongly with myself as an aspiring writer. Writing is an incredible boost to my mental wellbeing and a healthy way to express thoughts, feelings, ideas and images that regularly appear in my mind. 🙂👍

    Liked by 3 people

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  17. Interesting post. I myself write to change people’s days, to leave them a little different than before they stumbled across my words, it’s to create something meaningful?

    That part about confronting our fear is so true too. Lovely stuff, Gwen. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

  18. The post was so relatable. It caught me off-guard as most of the reasons listed resonate with me. I started writing for peace of mind. Writing helps me declutter all my thoughts and arrange them neatly in the form of memoirs. And later when I revisit my works, I realize how much I have evolved and so many fond memories I have created.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m so glad you resonated with the post, Aditi. Thank you for pointing out how we grow through writing, as we sort through our thoughts and our lives. Wonderful insight! All the best…

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Why do I write? The simple answer is a borrowed quote (and I don’t recall who said it), “I write because I cannot not write.”

    The longer explanation? I have stories within me that are begging to be written. I knew I wanted to be a writer by the age of ten after reading a favorite childhood book, “The Incredible Journey.” I wanted to take readers to places they’d never been. Joan Didion’s quote has given me much to ponder. I have a few vague memories from childhood that have stayed with me, but the memories are incomplete. I recently journaled about some of them, but maybe, just maybe, these memories are the early stages of another story. Certainly worth exploring!

    Great post today, Gwen.

    Liked by 2 people

    • How beautiful, Joan. To be inspired by The Incredible Journey and decide to write is amazing. So many of us began thinking of stories as children, perhaps even wrote a few short pieces. Thank you for sharing so personally. You’ve brought back some of my early memories. 💗

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Really thought-provoking, Gwen. I also write because of questions I find myself asking. Because characters show up out of nowhere and tell me their story. Because of bizarre images in my dreams. Because of things I observe in the world. I’ve always admired you for writing a military thriller series – I wouldn’t even know where to start, lol.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much, Teri. As for military thrillers, my interest perked while working with Marine veterans on the West Coast. Indirectly, they helped me see a little differently and I suspect that’s when the questions started. 🙂 It’s amazing how our imaginations extend and then require our attention, right? Who knows how we’ll be led next. All the best…

      Liked by 2 people

  21. What a thought-provoking post, Gwen. I agree with you in that I could never imagine your gentle soul writing military thrillers, but you were chosen. There is no other explanation. A medium was needed and because of your deep connection to not only your soul but the soul of the Universe, you were chosen. You could have passed the offer by and it would have gone on to someone else. I know that may sound a little wacky, but I truly believe when I am given the idea for a story, it is my duty to follow through and write it. It’s like the stories pick us to tell them. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience! Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your kind words, Jan. That thought has crossed my mind, so I don’t think you sound wacky at all. As you mentioned, “stories pick us to tell them.” Though it’s a baffling thought, I suspect it is true. 💗

      Liked by 2 people

  22. What a beautiful share, Gwen, as well as a fascinating insight into how your books came to be. Didion’s quote post spoke to me as well, as did this post, and I can see the recurrent themes in my work as an exploration of my own questions. I’ll have to spend some time thinking about this. Thanks for your insights!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Fantastic article, Gwen. We share many reasons for writing. I often think about the “why” in my writing. It changes at times. But whatever the reason, I’m thrilled to be given this opportunity in this craft. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Most of your reasons are mine, too. As well as some of the others listed by commenters. I don’t know that I have anything of quality to add to that. I do know I kind of lived in a fictitious world since I was young. My earliest memories are of the pretend worlds I’d conjure as I played. When I got older, those worlds transferred to the page. I studied writing in college and have made it my career, both teaching and doing. But it’s more than a vocation to me. Sometimes it’s an almost spiritual process. I guess I believe God gave me this gift, and when I use it to the best of my ability, I’m fulfilling His plan for me. (Though I confess I have yet to think any of my work is worthy of what He wants.)

    I do want to thank you for (once) comparing me to Joan Didion. I confess I didn’t know much about her, but I researched her since then and was blown away by the compliment. Now that I’ve read this post, I’m even more humbled and awed that you feel that way. Thank you so, so much!

    This was a great post, Gwen.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Staci. You remind me of Didion a lot. You share a style of writing, and as well, an honesty that emerges through the prose. I wish I could have been in one of your writing classes. I would have learned a lot. 💗

      Liked by 2 people

  25. Well, when it comes to writing, I can’t imagine NOT doing it. From the time I was a child, I’ve always had stories and characters dancing around in my head. I penned my first story at age six and never stopped. For me, writing is as natural as breathing. It’s just part of who I am, have always been, and will always be. That love has always been there. It’s something I got from my father (who dabbled in writing). I guess you could say the stories just have to be told! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • How incredible, Mae! I loved writing, but when I was young, it was more about crafting something poetic rather than telling a story. I loved the sound of words and how when carefully placed, they could create something beautiful. You are amazingly gifted, Mae, and your stories definitely need to be told. 😊

      Liked by 2 people

  26. A thought-provoking post, Gwen. I have to search my memory banks to get a handle on why I started to write. It was long before I retired, and at the time, I think it was to explore the possibility of being able to do it. Since that time, I’m split between reasons. I think I do novels to satisfy a need to explain some of the situations that have occurred in my life. I design characters with the idea of creating different outcomes than real-life dictated. Those I miss are back again with vigor, loves lost are regained, and hurts inflicted are erased. For my blog, it is simply to entertain. Since my blog writings outnumber my novels I suppose that could be a primary reason. Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Wonderful thoughts, and I fit into some of them. I write to entertain, myself included. I like to imagine that the right people can come out on top. That regular folks can stand a chance, and that monsters can be overcome.

    Liked by 3 people

  28. I found this an intensely moving post, Gwen. I can see that you’d need the foundation of religion to cope with the awful truths that you uncovered in your research. I wrote my first book because I was so angry about the care system and the more I delved into it the more angry and depressed I became. My second one was a similiar spilling of my fears about our heath service here in the UK and my fourth is a novella about how easy it is to trash someone’s reputation. I suppose this writing is my way of opening people’s eyes to how people are exploited in the interests of financial gain, and they also act as a pressure valve. I can appreciate how stressful the current world situation must be for you. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Trish, for sharing so personally. Writing is an amazing gift, and as you’ve suggested, it gives us a voice, a means to reach those who might have the same questions, concerns, or dreams. We’ve all much to be grateful for. 😊

      Liked by 2 people

  29. I’m definitely the dream and legacy options. Entertain others is a third reason. Writing also helps me relax, which is why I get stressed if I go a long time without doing it. Been about a 7 month dry spell though, so I’m really twitchy.

    Liked by 4 people

  30. I began writing, after years of having given up the dream, to prove I could.

    Now, I’m often surprised by the topics that present themselves to me … eventually, the underlying message/theme reveals itself. Like you, I’ve spent my life questioning. So many of your points resonate.

    Great post, Gwen, and a thought-provoking one. Thanks for sharing 💕🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • I suspect many of us were kids who always asked questions and that pattern became part of us, maybe even haunts us. Thank you for sharing as you have, Harmony. 💗

      Liked by 2 people

  31. There must be as many reasons as there are writers, Gwen. You made me look for my reason, as I hadn’t given it much thought before. I discovered that I try to create a world that is better/more interesting/ far fulfilling than my own. Somewhere I can escape to whenever I can…

    Liked by 5 people

  32. Wonderful post, Gwen 🙂 I love how curiosity led to your stories. There are definitely some truths mixed into that search. I like exploring what is beyond we can see. Plus, I like to be a part of a world where good eventually wins over evil. Writing is a place not only to explore what ifs but new situations.

    Liked by 7 people

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