Why do We Write?

Why do we write? Do you ever wonder about that? Might thinking deeply about why you write change what and how and when and even where you write? It seems to me that we can get into a habit—let’s face it, a rut—with our writing at the same time that our life has been taking new turns and our deepest beliefs and hopes and dreams have been veering off in new, unexpected, potentially adventurous directions. Yet our fingers keep plodding along on the keyboard or wrapped around the pen in the same old pathway.

Yesterday I was pondering this, and I grabbed a pen and jotted down questions that popped into my mind. Today I decided to share a few with you, as I sense that my writing is about to take some new directions—including on this blog. And I’m wondering: What about you? Do any of these thoughts resonate? So here goes:

Why do I write? To entertain? To inform? To persuade?

(Mostly to inform, I think, but I’d like to pursue entertainment, or at least humour, a bit more—and perhaps persuade if I can bring myself to discover what I really believe is important in life and not be afraid to admit those beliefs if they aren’t middle-of-the-road acceptable).

What about this: How important is potential income for my writing?

(Yep. Pretty important, at least up to now. Which explains, I suppose, why I spend most of my time writing student reports and designing tutoring lesson materials and doing editing and other writing-related activities that PAY! Yet I think if I focused on what I’d love to write, it might create a temporary dip in my income, but in the long-term, along with some marketing efforts, I might do just as well financially–and feel a lot happier and fulfilled.)

What about this whole “entertainment” society we live in?

(It seems to me, when I attend writers’ conferences, read writers’ blogs, take part in writers’ groups, read craft-of-writing books, that fiction writing receives far more focus. Is this a reflection of the entertainment-focused society we live in [I’ve just finished re-reading Fahrenheit 451…]? In fact, I’ve felt like my non-fiction writing is perceived as being of less value, even though stats say that non-fiction, in its many versions, sells much better both in numbers of books and over time. But I’m not just thinking about income; I’m also thinking about value to readers. And I’m wondering… oh, on to another question! So…)

Why do writers seem to value fiction writing so much more than non-fiction?

(We’ve been told fiction is more creative. But is it always? Is there anything truly new and imaginative? If we say we are writing creatively with fiction, why do we spend so much time analyzing and jumping into current trends in fiction—or does that just bring us back to the income question? And is non-fiction considered less creative? It shouldn’t be, should it? I mean, digging deep into what we believe, think about, wonder about, requires so much exploration and imagination. And so many forms of non-fiction writing depend on story-telling, don’t they? Think about journalism and biography and memoir and copywriting, for example. Also, isn’t most writing on blogs, social media, and other online writing mostly non-fiction—even if we don’t count the stupendous amounts of fake news?   There’s something to that old saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” And that brings me to another question…)

What about truth? Is non-fiction truth? Can fiction also be truth?

(And where does fake news and persuasion around one’s favourite passion or belief or emotion or prejudice fit in? Aren’t a lot of those things really fictions to some degree? Convenient fictions, perhaps? Selfish fictions? Justifications? When people “make news”–say and do the things that make it into newscasts and editorial discussion and choices—aren’t they, in their chosen words actually creating a kind of fiction since it reflects their point of view and beliefs and purposes? And doesn’t that bring us back to the question, “What or Who is Truth?”)

What do you think? Is there a firm line between fiction and non-fiction or do they overlap? What about creative non-fiction; where does it fit in? Or are all of these the same thing, just presented in different ways?

I will stop now. Maybe I’ll post more of my ponderings in another post–questions about what story-telling really is and about what purpose and audience should really focus on and so on.

What about you? Do you wonder about these questions? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the “comments” for this post, or you can share them with me on Facebook or Twitter. I’m really looking forward to hearing from you 🙂


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