I’m certain all of us have asked the question. Why am I doing this?
Some more often than others, I’m sure. As in, “Why am I putting myself through this?” Particularly when stuck, or while collecting noes during submissions. Or after a daunting critique. I mean, there have got to be easier gigs than this one, am I right?
But I don’t mean as a passing thought. I’m talking about taking a good hard look at the subject. Really examining why you’re spending so many of your finite hours on earth in this pursuit. I’ve often heard the succinct answer, “Because I have to,” or, “Because I can’t imagine not doing it.” Those are good ones. I accept them as valid.
I’m also sure a few lucky souls out there will answer, “Because writing is my retreat/respite; my joy/solace; my healing/me-time. I consider it a reward not a labor.” (I’m looking at you, Benjamin Brinks.)
But beyond that urge or longing, beyond the respite/solace gained, what do we really hope to achieve? Because, after all, even if we feel we “have to write,” or find reward in it, many of us could satisfy ourselves in an hour or so a day, or with a few longer sessions a week, and without the intent of having it read or reacted to in any way.
I’m sure that every WU reader appreciates the time, dedication, and passion necessary to acquiring and maintaining the sort of writing competence that’s worthy of being consistently read.
If you’re serious about gaining and keeping it, you’re giving a lot of yourself. A LOT. Certainly enough to warrant the question.
A Question That Sprawls
As I suggest in the title, this isn’t the first time I’ve asked myself why I write. It usually happens between manuscripts, as I am now. I find that it’s worth reexamining because the answers inevitably change. In my case, it’s more of a refinement than an overhaul, but my reasons have indeed changed.
At the core of it, I have to accept that my goal is larger than simply to tell a story (relatively speaking, that’s the easy part). I’m seeking to express stories in the best way possible; to construct and present them so that they are as meaningful, memorable, and moving as can be.
But that elaboration of the goal begs the supplemental question: well-expressed and meaningful to whom? For me it’s a reminder that, yes indeed, I’m doing this to be read. Which naturally leads me to ask what sort of readership that entails. I have been read, after all. By… um, dozens of… well, mostly friends and family. So then, how many readers are enough? If I need more, why? To what end do I seek them?
See how this question tends to sprawl? [Read more…]