Why do you write?

Apparently more people in Britain dream of being a writer than any other job. Unless they’re also people who want to be broke there must be something else that lies behind this yearning, this desire to write. Because most of us aren’t writing for a living - but we are writing as part of the way that we live. Writing to help us define and create the way that we want things to be.

All of which got me thinking about what it is that we get from writing - what drives us, what motivates us to write. I’ve been learning about what it means for some of you already.

Maybe it means writing not to hear yourself talk - but to hear yourself think (Robert from Middle Zone Musings)

Perhaps, like Jon at Levite Chronicles it’s part of how you come to know, how you figure out what is going on.

For Jean, the Cheerful Monk (I paraphrase slightly): it’s writing from the heart, writing that moves you, writing to connect with kindred spirits, writing to contribute, and being changed as a result of your writing.

Or maybe like Karen at The Clearing Place it’s those moments when we find the words, the courage to spill our spirits and make a connection: when writing “allows our spirits to grow and learn and connect”

For me, it’s something to do with the power of connection: the connections we can make with other people, the connections we develop between our own ideas, making sense of our experience, pulling together spaghetti strands of random thoughts and creating something new, connecting back to our roots and our selves and coming out with a stronger sense of who we are.

But then again maybe it’s that thing I call realising: the sweet, slow dawning of realisation. Recognising the things that you always knew to be true. Recognising - with a jolt - your self in your words. Realising the power of your words, and taking responsibility for their power and impact: on yourself, on other people, on the world. Grounding yourself with the specificity of words. Validating your experience with words which are not real - but can make us feel that our experiences are. Allowing ourselves to be changed by the words that we write. Watching how:

  • the more you write a sense of place, the more you feel it
  • the more you write with all your senses, the more you are fully alive
  • the more you write with clarity, the clearer things start to become
  • the more you write to establish connection, the more connected you feel
  • the more you write from your own power source, the more powerful (deep, calm, peaceful power) you will feel

I can’t argue with the practical advice from the Guardian:

So, by all means, write, if you enjoy it. But, if you value your sanity - and that of any readers - keep it to yourself. Keep the dream; just don’t give up the day job.

But in a sense, they’re missing the point. If we’re to keep going with the day job perhaps we need more than ever to have the outlets for learning, for sharing, for connecting, for creating a different sort of reality.

Writing tops poll of ideal jobs - Guardian Unlimited
Don’t give up the day job - Guardian arts blog
People in Britain dream of riches - YouGov poll

Thoughts on writing are from readers commenting here on ‘blog writing with a purpose’, writing with authenticity: the September theme at Confident Writing, and ‘when writing means spirit spilling’ with grateful thanks to you all for the inspiration

Joanna Paterson

Journal and writing coach, teaching ways to notice and capture the wonder of the everyday, through writing, poetry, and photography.

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8 Responses to “Why do you write?”

  1. On August 27, 2007 at 2:23 am Robert Hruzek responded with... #

    Hey, Joanna, can I get that on a plaque? :-D

    Yeah, I like that - connections. It’s why I write at MZM. In fact, it’s the theme of my contribution to the Age of Conversation book: “Bridges”.

  2. On August 27, 2007 at 8:09 am Nadiah Alwi - Writer of Quadrangle responded with... #

    Very interesting. Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. On August 27, 2007 at 8:10 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Robert - glad you like it. It’s fun seeing the power of your own words, isnt’ it?

    I’m reminded I must go and get a copy of the Age of Conversation. I tried last week when you mentioned it but the publishing site was getting some maintenance - must go back later today.


  4. On August 27, 2007 at 8:15 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Nadiah, thanks for your feedback. I found it an interesting post to research and write too - in fact I could have kept going a lot longer! But figured it would be better to have it as a theme that we could come back to…

    Best wishes


  5. On August 28, 2007 at 2:25 am Rosa Say responded with... #

    Why do I write? That is somewhat like asking why I breathe; just can’t stop, and life as I have come to know it would be over without it!

    However Joanna, you describe it so much more eloquently!

  6. On August 28, 2007 at 8:46 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Rosa - your explanation sounded pretty eloquent to me!

    Actually I know you have written some beautiful material on why you write, and I might just point readers to some of it one of these days…


  7. On May 4, 2010 at 3:37 pm Gina Magini responded with... #

    Many authors lament the struggle and torment of writing. Me? I like writing. Sure, you have to take a break from time to time or it gets to be too much. But it’s a great way to make a living. It beats typing other people’s words for a living (which I have done), or washing dishes (which I also have done).
    Thanks for a great article!
    .-= Gina Magini´s last blog ..Write What You Know? =-.

  8. On May 9, 2010 at 7:39 am Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Gina thanks for the feedback - and great to hear how much you like writing :-)

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