Why do you write?

A few days ago I mused on poetry, how I can’t get with it, and that I would attempt some Haiku anyway. That will be either tomorrow or Thursday. Today another question is deserving attention. Why do you write?

Why I write is a question I have been asking myself over the last few days. This blog, as you likely know already, is pretty much the 15 minute writer exercise. I write for at least this time every day, I just thought I would up the stakes a little, by putting it on a blog. This works a little bit, because if I was just using a notepad or a file on my computer, then I would likely do more lists, diary type things, bits that are completely dull. Doing the blog, I want it to be a bit more interesting. That is not to say there won’t be some tedious stuff on here, and other list stuff (e.g. writing prompts) at some point, but generally, it should be something at least someone might want to read. So the shape of the blog is this so far. It might evolve into something else, after all the theme is the exercise, where I’ll see what comes out, and how it all takes on a shape, or somewhat cliche, life of its own. But why do I do it? Why do I trouble myself to make it a little more interesting, and why do I want it to be read?

The useless answer I have right now is I don’t know. The real answer is I do. On the surface I think that it might be, just to see if, I can do it. To see if I can write to a level where there is a bit of an audience there to read it, and make opinion of it. On the blog, I differentiate that from having an audience for a fictional story, as that would be a different style of writing. Well unless I put some fiction on here. I suppose it is also part of practice and hopefully improvement. Having it “out there” adds another dimension. That is not the whole story though.

When I was younger I wrote a few stories. For various reasons, over the years this stopped. I still got and still get, ideas for stories, characters and so on, so I have continued to put down some notes over the years, with a view to returning to them, and using them on something. In paid employment I have written technical stuff. I’ve written technical documents that detail entire custom software programmes which are easily over 100 pages each. So quantity, logical thinking, specific details and the skills necessary for technical writing come easily enough. I seem to be able to edit others work quite easily as well, correcting things or giving pointers for changes. But I’ve no wish to be doing only that for the rest of my life, especially the former, and herein lies the underlying issue. The stories and such which exist in my head, well they’re starting to fight their way out, they don’t want to be just stuck in there anymore, and they’re asking me to help them get there. Or, that is what it feels like. Having not written fiction for a long time, I wonder, or perhaps doubt, if I can do it. But there is a niggling urge to see if that is true.

If I was to consider the reasons people might write, I would categorise as follows:

  • You have already got the skill set. Some people are naturally talented in this way, much like a footballer may have the necessary athleticism, and a seemingly natural ability to pull off certain moves. Practice is just rounding it out and topping it off. The rest of us might have to learn the skills and work a lot harder to improve them.
  • The “Urge“. Some people just have something that drives them to write because they want to, or need to. They just have to do it. The much missed writing genius, Christopher Hitchens was one of these (I almost typed “God” but I don’t think he would have approved of that one).  Chris could bang out a craftily worded essay with ease, with a skill, and eye for the right diction, that would take many of us several drafts to even get close to that level. Of course he wrote so much that he ought to have improved through experience, he no doubt went over that magic 10,000 hours (needed to master a skill or area: see Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” for explanation) at a young age. I would urge you to read one of his collected essay books e.g. “Love, Poverty and War”, or other books such as “Hitch-22”, or “God is not great”, to see how good he was, and what he had to say, if you’re unfamiliar.
  • Career. Some people may feel a need to write, or just be competent at it, but more over want to be putting their thoughts, opinions, ideas, into something people can read. It might be a career writing journalism, or a career writing books and stories. Whatever it may be, they feel they can make money out of it to sustain themselves and their families, or in some cases, make themselves rich.
  • You have ideas, stories and so on that you want to get out there. These could be for yourself or others.
  • You want to be creative or artistic. To create something yourself. This is more often associated with fiction obviously because you pretty much create it all.
  • It helps you think through things. Getting it down on paper or screen can help sort through your thoughts, perhaps uncover something you didn’t realise was there, or clarify something to yourself , give you an alternative perspective.
  • It gives you practise to improve your skills, find areas you need to improve in, and the opportunity to do so.
  • It gets your mind active and much as improving your skills through practice, allows you to improve yourself (generally speaking of course, you could rant and spew forth such bile that it has the reverse effect, but I assume this rare).
  • You just want to put yourself out there for others to discover, or family members to read – see many blogs where people talk about there lives or some sort of experience(s).

Most people who write probably have a number of the above in mind, even if only one is the major driver. So which apply to me?

I think that I feel the need to see if something I had all those years ago is still there. Am I capable, was I capable, have I had it and lost it? Have I been wasting my time a bit over the years not getting on with it. If I’m honest, yes I have. There have been some valid excuses over the years, and some which were just excuses. A bit of growing up, and a bit of laziness perhaps? Yes, I would imagine so. Does this mean I lack the drive? Some writers have to write everyday, that is part of who they are. I don’t have that, or have not had that for a while. I used to I think, it seems a bit like a distant memory now, a little like I’m imagining it. In my mind, and somewhat written / typed out, I have plenty of projects that I can work on, in various stages of development. They were not progressing very well, or, as is really the case, just not very quickly.

I suppose you could say I was lacking a little in confidence in my abilities, coupled with knowing I was out of practice, and thus, rusty on the writing skill set. For the latter, that is both true and not true. I mentioned above I feel I am more than competent on technical documents, I can get all the necessary details in, and present them in a manner that anyone can follow. In the right environment I can do that easily. My other projects are all at home, in my “own” time. They require a different skill set, there is I suppose, more room for failure, and potential for effort without reward. So I guess this has had an effect on my confidence in the sense of committing to it, and actually starting it. I believe that part is common to lots of writers, the part where you take everything you have put together and see if it works. You get to see if that little magic dust exists, does it have that little spark, that little something, I dread to say x-factor, which is a dirty word these days, but that essence that makes it more than the sum of the parts. Or if it is all a mess, not what you thought it was, it is just, not there.

The only way to know, is to find out, is to try. I wasn’t trying enough, so I figured out that the way to get to it might be just to write something. This is where the blog came into being, in the guise of the 15 minute writer, and with it, a daily commitment to do something. Let me use this to start practising, to clean off a little rust, and to test the commitment and work ethic. Would I get bored, would I lack the commitment, if I cannot do this then I lack the balls for anything else other than a pipe dream? Well I’m pleased to say thus far I am enjoying it. The 15 minutes is a struggle but not how you might think. The struggle has been to keep it down to around that amount of time. I write for a lot longer, I’m doing longer articles than I planned to. I’m actually getting the urge again, and don’t want to break the commitment. I will need to translate this into my own projects soon, which will likely shorten the posts here, but I feel I’m more in the writing world again. Daily writing is becoming, if you excuse the tautology, a daily thing. It is in my mind as something I want to, and need to do. I’ve started putting more effort into developing one of my projects, and I shall attempt a first draft soon. Here on the blog, can be for everything else.

So I guess the reason I want to write is because I have creative urges that I want to put into something, and ideally something which is greater than the sum of it’s parts. I’ve been lacking in confidence, in my ability to do that, in devoting time to doing that, and therefore just a general drive to start and finish that. I write the blog for practice, to up the quality stakes a tiny bit, for commitment, to test myself in different aspects, and now for the fun. I’ve a rough idea where the blog is going, but excited to see what destinations it arrives at, and what stops on the way. But I don’t see this as my only output, my contribution to the writing world, just the gateway to find another. So what reasons do you write for? If you run a blog, why do you write it? I seem to have worked out why I do mine.

Lexicon word of the day: Osculate.

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