Why Do You Write? Asking a Writer Why Leads to Thousands of Answers and Essays

Ask a writer why they write and you’ll get a thousan answers or at least a thousand essays. I’ve written nearly that many responses to this age-old question since I started writing as a hobby maybe 20 years ago.

I’m taking a revision class right now and our instructor had us warm up by reading two famous responses to Why I Write? We read what Joan Didion had to say. She was actually responding to what George Orwell said, so we also read that.

Why Not? scribble
Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

If you had asked me before that night, I would have said I agreed with Flannery O’Connor, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

Then we had about 15 minutes to draft our own short response. After reading my response and a few more from famous writers, I feel a little bit like Nicol Krauss:

“Why does one begin to write? Because she feels misunderstood, I guess. Because it never comes out clearly enough when she tries to speak. Because she wants to rephrase the world, to take it in and give it back again differently, so that everything is used and nothing is lost. Because it’s something to do to pass the time until she is old enough to experience the things she writes about.”

Nicole Krauss

And a little bit like Chuck Palahniuk:

“That’s why I write, because life never works except in retrospect. You can’t control life, at least you can control your version.”

Chuck Palahniuk

Why I Write

by Catherine Lanser

I write because things come out easier on paper than they do with my vocal cords. I’ve never figured out how to delete words that have been spoken like I can cross words out on paper. 

That is if anyone can even hear what you say. When I was growing up around a crowded kitchen table, my voice wasn’t even loud enough to rise above the din. I might want to add something, but it was easier to whisper to myself rather than strain my voice to be heard. Instead of talking, I read the words on the containers set on the table.

K-R-A-F-T. K-R-A-F-T. K-R-A-F-T

“What did you say?”

All the eyes around the oval table turned to me. I stopped whispering.

“What did you say? Were you spelling something? Say it again.”

“K-R-A-F-T,” I said.

“She just spelled her first word!”

It was remarkable. I was the star for a second. It was quiet and everyone listened.

Though, I didn’t start writing for years after, when I did start writing, that was the feeling I chased. I wanted the world to read my words and be stunned. To stop and listen to their importance.

But it didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t how it was going to work. If I wrote for the adoration of the reader, I wouldn’t be writing for long. Instead, I needed to write for myself. I needed to write to tell myself how it really was. It didn’t matter if no one was going to listen. I knew my voice still mattered. On the page, I couldn’t be crowded out.

So why do you write? Tell me below. Or tell me who you identify with from this list of writers.

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3 comments

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  1. Mitch Teemley

    I particularly identified with the reasons given by Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee. Why two Southern women when I’m a west coast male? I don’t know, although I am from the Southern part of California.

  2. Renee Open

    Coming to you from the Monday Morning Blog Club link up.

    What a lovely post and I agree with the thoughts shared. While I can be articulate, when I write I get the thoughts out precisely how I want them to come across. I write for myself and I write because I have lived and from living I have unique experiences to share and my own version of the insights gleaned. Writing can be my therapy and my voice in the world.

    I remember the first time I heard about “blogs” on the news – when they were just becoming a thing and I remember feeling so excited. The idea of shoot my thoughts into the world and having them land where they might challenge a stranger’s thinking was so exhilarating to me!

    It took me a while to start blogging, but once I started I haven’t stopped and have blogged through many personal journeys since.

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