This is going to be a long one. Sorry!
A little while ago, I posted a review for the novel, Fangirl here on my blog. One of the things that got me thinking while I was reading it was the English professor in the book asks the question “Why write?” I think that’s something we as writers get asked or ask ourselves at least once in our lifetimes or our writing lives.
Why do we write? Why do we sit down at the computer or the table and pour out our stories or our poems and then face rejection or criticism? What drives us to bang our heads against that wall that is our characters or plot? Why do we let people (or ourselves) tear us down and then come back for more?
With that in mind, I posted five questions to my writing friends (I love all of you, I love that you are willing to answer these questions for me when I throw them out and not ask me what I am going to do with them) and got some fantastic answers back. I have friends who are published authors, who are fanfic writers, and who just write because they feel the call (honestly all of them feel the call or they wouldn’t be writing) and all of them had some really great answers. I think even if you aren’t a writer, just the idea that someone will commit to something for this long is awesome. (I don’t think any of these people have been writing for less than half their lives.)
The following people answered my questions:
SJ (Fiction, fanfiction, some poetry but not in years)
Dee (Fanfiction, poetry, fiction)
Tinhutlady (Fiction, fanfiction)
Patrece (Blogging, fiction)
Ransom Noble (Fiction, poetry, blogging, non-fiction)
Elle (Blogging, poetry, short stories)
Laddee (Fiction, newsletters, editing)
Ann (Poetry, short stories, novels, letters to the editor, blogging)
The questions I asked them were:
1. Why do you write?
2. Why do you write what you write (fiction, non-fiction, fanfiction, poetry, blog posts, etc)?
3. How do you feel when you don’t write?
4. What is the longest you’ve gone without writing?
5. What is your longest streak of writing?
And they gave me some fabulous answers! I’m not going to share all of them because I ended up with NINE pages of replies, but I’ll share the most interesting ones.
I think the most interesting and best answers came from the “Why do you write?” question. Almost everyone had some version of “To keep myself sane.” And I laughed so much over how many people talked about the voices in their heads. Only another writer would understand that.
Why do you write?
Because the little voices in my head won’t shut up. Until they do. (SJ)
It keeps me sane. I started writing as a form of therapy. It still serves as that, but I also discovered I really like and that I’m good at it. (Dee)
I love dreaming up stories but never thought to write them down until about 15 years ago. I find that writing brings out the best in my imagination and hones it, and it is both fun and challenging. (Tinhutlady)
I write for different reasons. Sometimes I have a story running around in my head and it demands to be set free. Other times I write to distract myself from things I don’t want or need to think about. Other times I write just for the fun of writing. (Patrece)
I write… because I don’t know what else to do with all the characters and voices and plots in my head. Usually it’s fiction, though occasionally poetry, blog posts, and non-fiction pop out for different reasons. (Ransom Noble)
I write because I enjoy it. It provides me with a challenge and intellectual stimulation while being enjoyable. (Elle)
I write because I am adventurous, and I love to type. The stronger the imagination, the deeper I travel. Everything, place, and action has a feeling. I like to bring those feelings out. Putting them in typed or written words makes them more acute. At least, that is what I am aiming for. If no one reads my words, I’m okay, but I do like to share. It is communication; it is exploring together. (Ladee)
I write because I desire to; as a reader from childhood, then a teacher of ‘creative writing’ after college, writing long grant proposals that were always successful in raising money for my nonprofits, I knew I could write anything. Stayed too busy with life, family, earning a living as single mom, finally at retirement I had time to write. So I write. Have always jotted down poetry, occasionally a story in pen and ink, then at 69 I took a Writing Course and wrote my first short story……………..it’s in my portfolio “Damn the Whiskey”………found Writing.com a place of encouraging friends, so I keep writing. (Ann)
Why do you write what you write (fiction, non-fiction, fanfiction, poetry, blog posts, etc)?
Almost everyone said they write what they do because that was what they felt they needed to write. There were different reasons, but it all boiled down to; this is what we felt most comfortable writing or this is what the “muse” called us to write. The majority of them (as you can see above) have written different things over the years and have moved from one thing to another or are working on different projects. I think not settling into one thing helps keep your writing fresh.
How do you feel when you don’t write?
This one was interesting. Everyone seemed to express a feeling of anxiety or malaise when they didn’t write, but they also admitted to going without writing from time to time. I think it says a lot about writers as a whole that we actually feel “sick” when we do not write.
I used to feel irritated if I didn’t write. Now, I know that I can’t force it. If the words are there, they’ll come, but trying to make it happen just makes me cranky. Which is probably why it’s taking me so damn long to write the fic I’m currently working on. 🙂 (Dee)
When I wrote fanfiction many years ago, I felt compelled to keep it at a very consistent and constant output. I panicked when I didn’t have anything to say. Now that I write original fiction, there is less pressure and I can take breathers and let my imagination go at its own pace. There’s no pressure to write if something isn’t ready to be written down yet. (Tinhutlady)
What is the longest you’ve gone without writing?
It seems the average time is about a year, although one admitted to have been about 9 years and one said 69. But most also said they worked on other creative outlets.
A little over 9 years ago, I took about a year-long sabbatical to change my focus and get a better perspective on just what I wanted from my writing. That was probably the most significant break I’ve had. (Tinhutlady)
The longest I have gone without writing is unknown to me. I went through a period of several years without writing, other than for necessary purposes. I was just into other creative activities at that time. (Patrece)
I would say no more than a month without blogging. I have previously gone years without doing creative writing. (Elle)
What is your longest streak of writing?
This varied. It seemed that even if they are writers no one has a set of time amount they write.
Eleven years. I usually do most of my writing in January to post in February for my fic writing anniversary. If I’m lucky I’ll write more throughout the year. I started writing in February of 2004 and I’ve written something every year since, but there’ve been some pretty long stretches in there between fics sometimes. (Dee)
Since understanding that I just need to put out words, today will be Day 922 – and counting. (Ransom Noble) **She is far beyond that since she gave me this note a few weeks ago. I stand in awe of Ransom’s ability to consistently write each day and produce good quality work.
My longest streak of daily writing was 100 days. I have been writing regularly for the last five and a half years which is the longest streak of regular writing I have done. (Elle)
What I think it all boils down to is that no two writers are the same. And no two writers face their daily or semi-daily writing the same. But it’s always good to touch base with our fellow writers and know we are not alone. I’d love to hear from some of you about why you write!