Why do we write?

I’m one of the WordPress.com staff members assisting with this month’s Blogger University challenge, Writing 101. I’m not sure if I’ll write a post to go with all of our daily prompts, but the first one, a free-writing challenge, sounded fun.

So to start this off, I’m asking myself the question: why do people write, especially those of us whose lives don’t center around writing? And by writing, I mean, creative writing, blogging, writing stories about our lives, and so forth, not emails and support tickets or a report or feedback on a project.

Henriette Brown, A Girl Writing Source: Wikipedia
Henriette Brown, A Girl Writing Source: Wikipedia

Why do we put words together when there isn’t a purpose or a need?

I don’t know that I have any deep, philosophical explanation for it. For me, writing fulfills a few ‘needs’. I want to share my ideas and communicate to the world, to give form to abstraction. For example, when I started thinking about this post, I was going to write about the dreams I had last night, to make them “real” and permanent. The funny thing was, as soon as that idea came to me, I realized that I had forgotten them. Dreams that were so vivid this morning that I lay in bed reminiscing about them, and other than the tiniest fragments that are shooting through my brain, most of them are gone now. I’m sad because I didn’t write them down and commit them to a permanent record.

So that’s one reason why I write. Beyond that, though, I have this compulsion to create, to explore the world of the imaginary. Much of my ‘free time’ is spent writing fiction, which entails the creation of places and people and events, with descriptions to allow others to ‘see’ them as clearly as they exist in my mind. I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, since I was in grade school for sure. I don’t know if I’m really any good at it in an objective sense, but I can tell I’ve improved dramatically over the years, and fewer of my first drafts need to be fully revised before they can see the light of day.

To me, writing opens up a part of me that is vital and alive. When I go stretches without writing, I feel cranky and out of sorts, and when I hop back into a story I was working on before, it’s like everything balances out and life is good again. I used to think it was because I missed my characters, and to an extent I think that’s still true. There are some interesting people in that world of make-believe, and we often don’t give them enough of a chance to talk to us and tell us what they’re going through.

Beyond the characters, though, writing allows me to transform the ordinary, escape the mundane daily routine if just for a little while. Even when I am writing a blog post like this one, my brain is stretching and I’m living in the world of ideas, rather than cleaning the cat boxes or doing the dishes. It’s a break, a chance to dance and sing and paint the Mona Lisa if I so choose, all within a string of letters on a computer screen. I can do anything, go anywhere, experience anything I choose, while I’m writing.

And then when I’m done, if I wish I can share it with the world, or the tiny sliver of the world that may be paying attention. Or not – at least for the blog, for the writing here, I don’t care if it ever sees a wide audience. If you’re interested in what I have to say, that’s great. If not, I don’t feel like it was a failure. This is my space to say and think whatever I wish, and to let others interact with it if they choose to do so. When I write fiction, the goal is to make something others will enjoy and that will transform them, even just a little, making them think about the world in a slightly different way if just for the time they are engaging with my writing. But blogging to me is like a public diary, a journal of the moment, and if nothing else, I have it to look back upon later.

With all that having been said…. if you’re reading this now, I’d appreciate it if you’d post a comment and tell me, and let me know why you read this post and what you think about writing yourself. Whether you’re a writer or just a reader, what does writing mean to you?

10 thoughts on “Why do we write?”

  1. Thank you for sharing and joining us. I think I’m doing this because part of me has always been a writer and it gives me a place to open up.

  2. I read your post because I was curious as to why someone who writes for a living (presumably) would say they wrote. “a chance to dance and sing and paint the Mona Lisa ” – love that, the personal possibilities, experiences you can have! I write because I enjoy the cadence of words, I always have, though I haven’t always written. I find also that I process thoughts as I write; ideas clarify themselves. I do write for myself, but having said that, I appreciate finding readers who understand, and interact with it.

  3. writing, for me, is an exercise in exploration and adventure, control and letting go. it’s an opportunity to share some ‘truth’ (or ‘untruth) as its revealed to me, a sort of ministry to myself and others.
    i’ll admit, i’m not a fan of reading stream of consciousness writing – be it mine or someone else’s. but i read this post because at the outset it appeared to have a destination. and when i arrived, i was pleased.
    so thank you!

  4. I write to reach honesty. I write to express my imagination and thoughts, and to transform them from the privacy of my mind to words and conversations and provoke others to think about what I’m thinking and either identify with it or think “Wow am I ever lucky I’m not as nutty as she is!”
    I write fiction to illuminate. When I read, the books that resonate with me are the ones that help me to see and discover something in myself through the characters’ eyes and actions, their strengths and their flaws. I hope I can do that with my own writing.

  5. No words can really say all that writing means. Anything I say feels inadequate. It’s always more than the words.But it’s my joy, therapy, voice, expression, creativity, release, outlet, escape, home, friend, comfort, etc. etc. etc.

  6. I read your piece because I was intrigued and wanted to see how a staff member would answer this assignment. I’m amazed you can write something like this without editing and reediting. I like that you will continue responding to the assignments, at least part of the time. I know I will learn from you.

    I have written articles and even books, but not for a long time. My son has been writing a blog, “The Seeker’s Dungeon,” for a couple of years and was pestering me to start one. I said “someday,” and meant it. Then one day I decided someday was NOW. I wanted to be able to write for his DungeonPrompts.

    Then, as he suspected, I discovered I loved writing for my blog. I frequently don’t want to do anything else!

  7. I read this post because the title intrigued me, and I’m certainly glad that I did. It was easy to connect to even though I do not write for living. But even as a novice blogger I think about this often. Why do I write? I write because it satisfies my creative brain and allows me an opportunity to exercise the voice within me that is terrified of the ‘real world’. Perhaps someday it will reach beyond my fingertips, but for now I am satisfied.


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