Why we write

One of the perks of the writing binge is getting to spend time with writers. Sometimes we even have time to talk. On Monday Angie, Pauline and I sat on the front porch in the lovely Labour Day weather and discussed why people write.

Of course we know the reasons: money, fame, having someone read your work, just the pleasure of telling the story. Even people who would like to be published will often say that if they aren’t, they’re still happy to be writers.

I want to be published, but not at all costs. Several friends have suggested self-publication, but I’m leery of that for reasons I’ve detailed in other posts. Besides, I can’t afford it. Even if I weren’t published, however, I’d still be happy to be a writer.

I feel that writing – or any art – really needs to be self-rewarding. The financial rewards are so few, and so sparse, that it’s a bit of a mug’s game to go into it because you want to be famous and rich. A few do get to be one or the other, or both. More manage to make a living – good or meagre – from the work. Still more get bits of money here and there, and bits of fame. The vast majority get no money, and little recognition. Unless what you’re doing is fun, what’s the point?

I’ve had more fame than money, but I’ve had quite a decent chunk of money from writing over the years. If it hasn’t been enough to support me, it has certainly made my life easier. The work of writing itself has made my life much more interesting, in a good way.

Kurt Vonnegut apparently found writing no fun at all. It was the work he chose to do, and he made money att it, but it wasn’t his love. I kinda feel bad for him. I mean, it’s one thing to hate being a clerk in a video store, or a furniture mover, or any of the other many more-or-less reliable jobs in the world. It’s another to hate your chosen work when your chosen work is not, of itself, something regarded as either necessary or requiring skill or particularly worth doing.

Yes, if you make money at it, or get some kind of public recognition, then you are a writer (!) as opposed to someone who writes as a kind of hobby. If not, then you’d better enjoy what you do, because that’s the big reward.

Nobody’s motives are entirely pure or single. I love telling a story, and, yes, I love attention. I enjoyed being recognized as “Elizabeth Creith from CBC” or “The lady who wrote ‘Erik the Viking Sheep’.” Oh, yes, I did. I love the applause at Open Mike night, and I enjoy having my stories out there to be read. And I do like to be paid for my work.

In the end, though, if none of that happened, I would still write. I love the physical act of writing, and I love the mental work of it. I would love to have “The Swan Harp” published. If it isn’t, I’ll still always be glad I wrote it.

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2 Responses to Why we write

  1. Ah…spending time with other writers is a great perk and while, as you know, I’m one of those ones that writes for my audience, before it even gets to them….I do feel a great satisfaction at having written something I’m proud of. Coming home from monthly writing meetings, I feel a great sense of accomplishment even though my sometimes-very-rough pieces have only been read once to the group at hand and will likely never be read again by anyone but me. Ah…to write is…divine.

  2. ecreith says:

    It may be the best reason to write!

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