Why Write?


Image via Flickr by Nellie0224

After a brief hiatus (AKA school), I’m back. This past year of school has been amazing. Seriously. I think the past six months have contributed more to my writing and my understanding of writing than any other period of my life. I’d like to share some of those thoughts with you.

So why write? I couldn’t count the amount of times that I feel that I’ve been taken less seriously after telling someone that I’m a writer and an English Major. They tend to respond with the raised eyebrows, a slow nod, and “oh, so what are you going to do with that?” Then I sigh and feed their perceived stereotype by telling them that I’ll probably just live at my parent’s house and write novels until one gets picked up.

I’m kidding. I don’t say that.

But those questions have prompted to me to think often about why I write and why writing is important. Any answer to this question is of course subjective, but I think it’s an important question to answer, especially in a society where being a “writer” is not always taken seriously.

The significance of writing is a subject that has been discussed since the times of the Greek philosophers. In my opinion, some very valuable contributions to this discussion have been made by Kenneth Bruffee, who explored how thought is a social construct, or “internalized conversation.” In writing, and thus becoming part of the conversation of mankind, we better understand our own thoughts and create new knowledge.

Bruffee’s ideas stuck out to me because while I don’t know if I’d consider myself a true social constructivist, I do believe that the value of writing goes much deeper than the entertainment value.

To answer the question of why we write, it may be important to ask a simpler question: why do we read? Here, too, the answers will vary. You may read to gain knowledge, to escape from reality, to be inspired, or just because you just plain love to sit down next to the fire and crack open some fresh pages, and you don’t really have some other intrinsic motivation. That’s just fine.

As writers, we should consider these reasons and ask ourselves some follow-up questions. What knowledge could someone gain from my writing and why would they want this knowledge? Why would someone want to escape from reality and how could I help them escape? How can I inspire someone? How can I get someone to fall in love with this book like the countless others they’ve read? And while asking these questions in regards to our audience is vital, we should also ask these questions to ourselves as we write.

Why do I write? I write because it amazes me that no matter what genre we read, whether it be romance, fiction, science fiction, fantasy, or non-fiction, we find someone or something with which we can relate. We find human values and qualities (both good and bad) that transcend worlds, cultures, and eras. I write because I want to attempt to capture those values and qualities. I want to explore what makes us human, while telling an entertaining and engaging story at the same time.

I write because I hope to add some value to this conversation of mankind that is going on all around us, and I believe that all writing should do the same, in one measure or another.

Now, this was a very condensed answer to that question: why write? Novels have been written to answer this question, so an exploration of the entirely topic unfortunately cannot be condensed into a single blog post.

Thank you, friends, for listening to my wandering thoughts. Please feel free, as always, to continue this conversation and answer the question: why write?