One of the first questions I ask at my writing workshops is: Why do you want to be a writer? The answers are as varied as the participants themselves, but I’ve found there are five replies that crop up again and again.
1. For the money!
This answer is relatively rare, but it does surface occasionally. Writing is by no means a get rich quick scheme. Indeed, many writers need to supplement their income by other means to enable them to continue getting the ‘writing fix’ they crave.
This doesn’t mean you can’t make a living out of writing. It can be very lucrative. Romance writers for Harlequin / Mills and Boon, for instance, make a good living out of their craft. But if you heart is not in your potential book, don’t go there! Readers – and editors – are quick to spot insincerity and the book is unlikely to see the light of day. You have to be a fan first, and a writer second.
2. Because I love reading
Loving reading certainly goes with the territory. It’s what ignites the flame in the first place. Writers are often compulsive readers. There’s no newspaper at the breakfast table, your eyes wander to the cereal box … you inexplicably become engrossed in the story of oats … Sound like you?
Maybe you want to giving something back to the book world. Maybe you want to write the story you’ve always wanted to read. These are good solid reasons for wanting to be a writer. Reading widely and consistently through varied genres will make your work more publishable. It’s a great starting point, but is it enough to help you go the distance?
3. I see it as my therapy
This is another great reason to write. It doesn’t matter whether you write for an audience or for yourself, putting your feelings in words can help you deal with life. It gives you the space and the freedom to deal with problems in a safe way, and helps you grow as a person.
By creating a character who faces similar problems, you can work through the issues and hopefully reach resolution or closure. The story can mimic your actual experiences, or you can tweak it in any direction that you like. Wish fulfillment is why many of us write, and why many of us read! Either way, writing gets the demons out of your head and onto the page where they belong.
This doesn’t only apply to fiction. One of my non-fiction books helped me though a rough time. My father died of cancer while I was pregnant, and I was in major denial. Soon after his death, an editor called and asked me to write a book for her. The title? What to do when someone dies. I couldn’t believe it! When Dad died I went through all the motions, but it still hadn’t sunk in. It was only when I wrote the book that it really hit me, and that was when I started to deal with it.
4. I want to share …
My experiences, my hopes, my dreams…
This is another great reason to write. The desire to communicate lies at the heart of writing. I believe it also lies at the heart of what it means to be human. No matter what we go through, we need to express it to others. We need to be understood, for big matters and for small. Even if it’s just the inane ‘isn’t it hot today’ with a stranger at the bus stop, we all crave to connect and share.
Books allow us to do this in a unique way. When you think about it, reading and writing are virtually forms of telepathy. We can share the innermost thoughts of people from other places, even other times, simply by looking at squiggles on paper! It’s truly amazing, and we, as writers, are privileged to be part of this.
5. I don’t know, I just can’t help myself!
This is the best reason to write – because you simply must. This is what keeps us pushing on. Despite the days when words flow like cement, despite the insecurities, and despite the rejection letters.
If I don’t write for a while, I start to feel itchy inside. If I ignore the feeling, it doesn’t go away. It gets worse. I try doing other things but nothing stops the itch. For instance, a few years ago I studied first year psychology out of interest. I loved it, but I kept finding myself saying ‘I could write a book about this!’ The demands of family meant I had no time to write as well as study. When I found myself getting thrilled over writing an essay, I knew something was wrong!
So let me know – why do YOU want to write? I’d love to know!