Why Do Writers Write? (And What Should a Reader Read?)

April 12, 2006 @ 1:07 am | Filed under: Books

I enjoyed this post at Metaxu Cafe about writers and ambition. I think she hits the nail on the head:

Like most writers, I write because I’m mysteriously impelled to do so and have been since childhood. If I was never published anywhere, I would probably continue—simply because I have no idea how to stop. But writing only for myself has never been my goal. I write to share who I am and what I know, what I’ve seen and heard and felt; I write to resurrect the lost and to give flesh and voice to the ghosts who often take up residence in my study.

I also write with the hope of earning a living that will save me from ever having to hoist another waitress tray. Until the sale of my first novel last November, it looked like I might end up slinging hash until I drop. It’s still a possibility. And if it happens, I can’t complain. I’ve tossed everything I have on the writing table; if I lose, there will be no one to blame but myself.

I wonder how many Emily Dickinsons or Jane Austens we never read because they had no family to cossett them, no private wealth to nurture their dream, because their hours and days and lives were lost to the exigencies of making a living in factories and mines, in domestic service or on farms. Their stories remain untold, their novels and plays and poetry unwritten. By some accident of history, a few of us are getting a chance that our ancestors could never have imagined. Only base ingratitude could prevent us from celebrating every small or large success.

UPDATE: Mary G. shared this great quote in the comments—wanted to make sure no one missed it!

Here’s a quote from JP the Great that sums up why I write: “”Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation — as poet, writer… — feel at the same time the obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbour and of humanity as a whole.”

As usual, no one puts it better than he.


On a completely different note, this blogger asks a fun question: what one book (not too heavy, not too small) should she take on her three-day camping trip?

It’s an occasion-specific question, of course, really just a variation on the “what should I read next?” question that faces every booklover on a regular basis. It amuses me how often my next-read choice is not something from the premeditated to-be-read pile on my nightstand, but rather an unexpected grab from the shelf.


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Comments

2 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. Lissa,

    Here’s a quote from JP the Great that sums up why I write: “”Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation — as poet, writer… — feel at the same time the obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbour and of humanity as a whole.”
    John Paul II

  2. Thanks for these quotes. The one from Metaxu expresses my feelings about writing very well. I just feel impelled to do it whether I ever get published or not!