Why is Writing Important?

With such a staggering number of books on the market and more to come, why is writing important? Only a small percentage of writers have ever made a living at writing (and most of those were people who wrote books on how to make a living at writing), and that percentage seems to be shrinking. More than 80% of books sell fewer than 100 copies. Maybe 50% sell only about ten copies or so. So, why write? The wonder of writing fiction is that a story born in one mind grows to full power in another mind. But what if you don’t have readers, or at least not many? And why take the time to learn the craft since some of the books that do sell are poorly written tripe?

If nothing else, this conundrum that writers face today makes us focus on what we get out of the writing process itself.

For me, writing is something that connects the parts of my life, even though I don’t always write. I once quit a job to write a novel, but found I had no intrinsic talent. I was young and didn’t have the wisdom to know that there are two types of talent — the intrinsic kind that’s called talent, and the learned kind that is in itself a kind of talent, the kind that that comes from trial and error. Even if I had known about the second kind, I didn’t have the patience to write the million words it supposedly takes to learn how to write, so when life got in the way, I let it. Other things simply were more important. (Some people believe you have to have a passion for writing, that it has to take precedence over everything else, but writing is not always “life” nor is life always “writing.” If one does not live, one has no reason to write.) Years later when my life had pretty much come to a standstill because of various misfortunes, I took up writing again, but when my life mate died, I lost the desire to write fiction. Perhaps one day the desire will come back along with a different focus and possibly a different talent.

Writing for me is also an emotional outlet and a way of discovering why I feel the way I do. While struggling to deal with the death of my long-time mate, I poured out my heart and my soul and my grief into journal entries, letters to my deceased mate, and blog posts. I don’t know if I could have survived without that outlet. A book compiled of some of the best writings of that time, Grief: The Great Yearning, has now been published, yet when I wrote during this time (except for the blogs, of course), I had no expectation of my words ever being read. I wrote for me.

Reasons for writing are as varied as those who write. For example, in a recent online discussion, horror writer Rob M. Miller said, “I write because I have something to say, and I want it to be heard.” Even if there was a chance he wouldn’t be heard, he would still write because, as he says, “I write to self-explore my mind, to self-medicate, to share my worldview.”

I like those reasons for writing. Too often when I ask writers why they write, they say they only want to entertain, which makes me cringe. If entertaining others is the only reason for writing, then why bother? The “others” can find a lot more entertaining things to do than to slog through someone’s unseasoned prose. But if you’re writing to share your worldview or to explore your mind, then your writing actually has value. Of course we want people to enjoy what we write, but entertainment can’t be the only reason to write, unless it’s for our own entertainment. Writing is a good way of passing the time. It’s better than watching television and it could change someone’s life, perhaps our own.

10 Responses to “Why is Writing Important?”

  1. davidstrachan Says:

    perhaps you want the world to know you

  2. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    I like the idea that wrongs may be put right through writing. Also warnings for the present and the future may be put into place.

    I grew up reading novels such as Brave New World (USA), 1984 (UK) and A Fortunate Life (Australia). Some of my earliest heroes were Stan Lee, Marv Wolfman and Larry Lieber. (These three gentlemen were American comic book writers.)

    My heroes in my late teens were Aldous Huxley, George Orwell. Albert Facey came alone later in the 1980s.

    Reading the works of Mark Twain (USA) and Anthony Burgess (UK), I could see how a writer could make a difference to a reader’s views on a lot of things.

    I have always been fascinated with storytelling and storytellers. Even my appreciation for art, as it stands, comes from whether or not there is a story being told by the artist or there is a story behind the painting worth knowing.

    I suppose my fascination with storytellers led inevitably to wanting to have a go at it myself.

    Why is writing important? Well I can’t vouch for all writing. At present I am working on a novel I have had in mind for some time but could not find the right angle for it until I read the Lewis Carroll (UK) Alice novels. He commented, through his writings, on some of the absurdities of his time and I feel it is imortant I get a chance to do so concerning my own time. Terry Pratchett (UK) deals with some pretty serious absurdies in his novels and, by making light of them, makes people more aware of them.

    My present target is political correctness. Orwell warned against it but now someone else needs to pick up where he left off. Am I the one? I do hope so. I will be doing it in a more Lewis Carroll style. Even so, I hope to deliver the necessary punches.

    Yes, writing is about communicating and sharing ideas. It can also be about debunking ideas and notions that appeared to be super but just don’t work so well in the real world. A dangerous path? You bet. But maybe, just maybe, an important path.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      But what if there is no one to share ideas with or communicate with? No one to read your debunkings? Would you still write? There are a lot of reasons to write if one has readers. But if you don’t have readers, is writing still important?

      • ROD MARSDEN Says:

        Where there is writing there is hope. If you don’t write then you definitely won’t have people sharing your ideas or coming to the conclusions, through your efforts, that you have come to. Yes, I would write even without an audience in the hope of someday getting an audience. Vincent van Gogh, as an artist, was a failure in his life time. For years his brother supported him in terms of money to keep going. Today the art of van Gogh speaks out to me and to a lot of other people. Hope of getting his messages in art across to people kept him going. Besides, I have people who look forward to reading my short stories and novels so I am better off than van Gogh was in his life time.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          So writing can be a symbol of hope. That makes sense to me. It could be that my inability to write (or rather my lack of interest in writing) is symbolic of my grief and despair. I wonder if by writing I could bring hope back to my life.

  3. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    Who knows? If you can bring back hope to your life with your writing you might also bring back hope for others who read your writing. Now that could be important.

  4. beyondearthseries Says:

    I agree. If you are going to write, do it because it makes you happy not because you are hoping to gain something monetary out of it. Would I like to have JK Rowling or Suzanne Collins’ bank account? Of course. But that’s not WHY I write. Writing saved my life and continues to provide me with a happy place where I can go when the world gets just a little too tough. Great blog, thanks!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      There is always a reason to write if one is making money at it, but since so few writers make any money, there has to be another reason. Happiness is a good one.

  5. Kathy Says:

    Writing is discovering what I think, writing is therapy, writing is communicating, writing is sharing, writing is documenting my life (must be the technical writer in me) as I reveal pieces of me (something technical writers do not do), writing is my stage because, yes, I do want to entertain, and I love it when a reader lets me know they loved my novel or short story and were entertained by it.

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