Why Do You Write? The One Question Every Writer Needs to Answer

It doesn’t matter how many days or weeks (hopefully not months) it takes for you to search deeply and discover the real reason; If you consider yourself a writer of sorts (journalist, poet, novelist, or even satirist), you should have a tangible and truthful response to this question.

Mind you, this reason is for you, there’s no exam where your answers are going to be scrutinized. And I guess that’s a very comforting thought. Since there’s no right or wrong answer, you can answer truthfully. Brutal honesty is what it’s all about.

Answering this question for myself did wonders for my psyche – my motivation levels, my self worth and confidence. So i might be onto something here.

How did I get here? Well, let me start from the beginning.

I had quite a few deadlines this month, which I met . I also submitted my entry for a competition (which I’m confident I’m gonna win). The story didn’t all out suck (thank God), even though it didn’t start out that way.

When I first got the idea for the short story, I started out thinking, “Oh my God, this is going to be a game changing story, a mega rock mover, the invention of the microchip, all over again”. And I guess most story ideas start out that way. From my experience, nothing is more exhilarating than the conception of a new idea, the thrill of the new blank page. This is a huge contrast to the crippling dread that blank pages used to give me about a year ago.

So, I guess I have proved one of those age-long theories – you get better with practice.

What hasn’t changed though is the self deception that this time, the writing process from initial idea to final draft is going to be a slam dunk. By the time I was halfway through the four thousand word story, I was slogging through, tearing out my hair, psyching myself up and out in front of the mirror, pacing so many times around the room, abandoned the story twice and nearly gave up on my writing career. But something kept me coming back to the story, and about three days to the competition deadline, the story came together in a haymaker of an ending.

And then, the strangest thing happened. I finished writing the best story of my life so far and something popped into my head :

This writing thing isn’t so hard, after all.

You’re probably doing this right now:

...from reactiongifs.com

…from reactiongifs.com

Or if you are more conservative:

...from reactiongifs.com

…from reactiongifs.com

Seriously though, I haven’t been able to stop thinking like that since last week. I guess that’s what they mean when they say you are either a glutton for self loathing and self doubt or possess a lot of hubris to want to be a writer. Maybe both.

I’m not sure the process gets easier (we’ll find out soon enough), but I do know that actually finishing one story (or any writing project for that matter) increases your confidence, and makes you a little braver to tackle another project. It’s very handy to have a completed project to point to when the inner critic/bully shows up with his usual ‘you’re a crappy writer’ routine. Just don’t let it look at that completed project too closely otherwise, you’ll either be ripping up the work or jumping off a cliff, whichever one seems palatable at the moment.

Anyways, so, why do you write? It’s a question I’ve also been asking myself (whenever I’m not dressed in the “this writing thing isn’t so hard” garb).

One reason why this question is important is because, it informs all the other decisions on your writing journey, which has implications in other areas of your life as well. If you’re going to be serious about your writing career, it’s going to affect the people in your life, whether friends or colleagues or bosses or spouses or kids.

This is actually just common sense. If you want to buy a car, the first question isn’t how much does it cost, or even how much do I make? Can I afford it? No.

The first question is, what do I need a car for? Is it a lifestyle statement? Is it a necessity purchase? The need determines the compromises you’ll have to make. if it’s a first car, you don’t need to pull out all the stops (unless you’re trying to show that you’re moving up in the world). Second hand cars usually make up the first car purchase, at least for most Nigerians. Unless you’re working in Chevron, which makes my logic redundant in a way.

...from reactiongifs.com

…from reactiongifs.com

I may have overthought this car buying thing.


Why do you write? What for?

Answers usually range from ‘It’s a release’ to ‘it’s a hobby’, to ‘I intend to do this professionally’.

The key is to be deliberate about it.

If you’re just looking for a way to release pent up frustration, then you probably won’t obsess over every word. Just let the emotions bleed off on the page. But if you’re seeking critical/literary acclaim, you have to pay your dues.

Personally, I want to be a good writer, first of all. Before making money, before becoming famous, I really truly want to be an excellent wordsmith AND storyteller (they are two separate things BTW). Then, I want to be paid good money for my writing. That’s my reason for writing.

Craft before Cash. I don’t need the awards, it’s not a big deal. But I need the affirmation that I can write and write well. And people usually do that by using their money. Or not using it.

So there. That’s it.

Why do you write? Let’s hear it.