Friday, October 20, 2017

Why We Write

On Tuesday evening, I was honored to be the guest author at the Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County Authors Night. This is an annual event when learners and tutors share the stories that they have written. I was asked to speak for 10-15 minutes before they came up one by one to read their true stories or poetry that had been collected in a small volume. My challenge was to come up with a short talk that would be relevant.

I decided to talk about why writers write. I did a Google search for comments from writers and surveys, looked at a few journal articles, and thought about why I write. Those of us who write often have a variety of reasons for picking up a pen or sitting down in front of a computer -- or these days -- dictating into a device connected to our computer. The reasons we give vary in how they are ranked by each of us.

In general, those who write speak of:
a. the need to share thoughts, ideas, or feelings
b. being compelled to write because it is a part of their identity
c. wanting to inform and/or educate
d. wanting to influence opinion and/or debate
e. wanting to share the world of their imaginations
f. giving voice to those who have no voice
g. writing because they are required to do so by work or school
h. writing because of ego, feeling they have something important to share
i. using writing to establish themselves as experts in their field
j. using writing to memorialize people and events
k. using writing to discover who they are
l. writing to win recognition, and/or fame and fortune

I didn't mention all of these reasons in my talk. Many of them overlap, and I was more interested in the roles of writing in self-discovery, sharing ideas and feelings, educating and informing, giving  voice, and sharing the worlds of our imagination. I saw some nods in the audience, so I hope I was speaking to what the learners and their tutors had experienced.

The real stars of the evening shared where they had come from (as adult learners, some of them immigrants). After they had read, the moderator asked each a question about their experiences or their goals for the future. Their stories reminded me again of the power of words to transform lives and connect people. 


Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Interesting stuff, thanks! As for why I write, like Flannery O'Connor “I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.”

Sybil Johnson said...

All kinds of reasons to write, aren't there? I'm not really sure why I started. I think I thought of it as a challenge and I could visualize the start of a story in my mind. I wanted to know where it was going. I continue to write because I feel compelled to. Maybe it's my "calling."

Patsy said...

Yes, so many reasons to write.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

I think I started to write as a teenager to find myself. Then later it was because I wanted to get what was in my head out. And I like having one place where I can shape the world to suit my fancy. Of course, writing a best-selling book and making lots of money wouldn't be bad either:)

Rick Blechta said...

This is a very good (and thoughtful) list. I believe your last point is put in the appropriate spot. If one goes into this game with fame and fortune at the head of the list, they will be setting themselves up for a fall, even if they do reach their goal. Fame and fortune is a side benefit of being a writer.

Thanks for the post!