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.
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.
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…