Why Write?

“Write what you’re called to write. Your job is not to pander or entertain. It’s to create, to share stuff from the soul as you are moved. If others are moved, that is merely coincidental. Consider it “gravy.” Your job is simply to write.”

The above is from a post by Jeff Goins. He has an extremely popular blog that I’m sure many of you are familiar with. For those who are not familiar with Mr. Goins, he is a writing guru. His posts are meant to inspire writers. I enjoy his blog and apparently so do many others as it was voted the number one blog for writers.

Despite Goins’ popularity, I am not so sure I agree with his advice. I want people – a lot of people to read what I write. I can’t give you an exact number because the answer is always more. What’s wrong with ambition?

I belong to a few writers groups on LinkedIn. Recently, someone posed a question that goes something like this: Would you still write if you knew no one was going to read your work? Most of the responders said yes. They writer because writing is in their blood. So, they write for themselves first and then for other people. I suppose this is what Goins meant.

As you may be able to guess based on what I have said so far, my answer was different. Tell me when you make a great meal, do you want people to eat it? When you draw a beautiful picture, do you want people to see it? When you do something that you are proud of, particularly something that is creative, do you want to share it? Do you want other people to enjoy and appreciate your creation?

Look at blogging. One of my favorite things about blogging is the instant feedback/reaction one recieves. In addition to the desire to hear feedback and engage in conversation about my writing (and other people’s writing), I used to be compulsive about checking stats. I know I am not the only one. My blogging friend over at ‘A Teachable Mom’ mentioned this in a post (http://ateachablemom.com/2012/11/07/rushing-is-the-new-crack/). Another blogging friend over at ‘Did That Just Happen’ mentioned how disappointed she was that a blog post failed. http://didthatjusthappenblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/bedtime-ramblings/

I was 21 years old and lying in my childhood bedroom. It was late at night, and I had just finished reading a book. It was the 4th and final (another book was added later, and I had not read the first at that point) book in the Rabbit series by John Updike. Now, I had read plenty of books before that. However, this book and character sucked me in like no other had prior. I don’t know exactly why Updike’s Rabbit series so moved me, but I knew that it did.

It was after that literary experience that I truly contemplated being a writer. I wanted to move people. I wanted to make them laugh and cry, smile and curse. Now, my writing journey has zigged and zagged. However, my basic premise for writing has not. I want to move people. That can’t be done if my work stays on my computer, sits on a shelf, or is latched up in my head. It also can’t be done if I ignore the reader and the marketplace.

So, I say my job is to write. I need to write what moves me. However, a big part of what moves me is moving other people.

53 thoughts on “Why Write?

  1. Thank you, *thank* you for telling it like it is. I have the same thoughts daily. It’s not enough, for me, to write because it’s fun. If I’ve produced something I know is good, that’s wonderful, but why would I not then want to share it? Even the Beatles weren’t great artists, in the final analysis. When they were asked about their motivations, they said “We want to make a lot of money”. At least that’s honest.

    I think what I have learned to do, however, is not tailor my writing style to suit an audience. I’ll write my way and people have to fit into that. But of course you want hits on your blogs. Why else would you be blogging, rather than simply diarising?

  2. I’d like to say that I don’t want people to read, but obviously, I do! What I don’t know is if it is because I want people to like me? Or if I really think I have interesting and insightful things to share! I mean, I can’t be the only one out there that has the stuff happen to me like I do, right? Maybe I just don’t want to feel alone in this grand Universe. Maybe I’m being way too philosophical… Whatever the reasoning, I’ve always enjoyed writing, and am glad to have found an outlet to share! Also very thankful for mentors like you out there sharing your stories!

  3. 🙂 Yep. I write for other people. Currently sitting at 19 people I’ve never met in my life, and I *love* how big that number is. Even if I only get one like on a post, only one comment, I’m super stoked that somebody actually took the time to read what I wrote, re-read, edited, re-re-read, re-edited, posted, and then re-read a few more times just for good measure. I feel for your bloggy friend Did That Just Happen – my “A Tale of Two Fish” post, I thought, was hilarious and a perfect example of my space cadet ways, but no one seemed to bite. 🙂

  4. I completely agree with you! I love to write and I started blogging so I’d have a place to do that. But even more, I love when I know that pele are reading what I have to say. When traffic slows down on my blog, I start to wonder why and I think about more “provoking” or inspirational things to write about. Blogging, for me, is about camaraderie. I’m glad you feel the same way!

  5. I completely agree with you! I love to write and I started blogging so I’d have a place to do that. But even more, I love when I know that pele are reading what I have to say. When traffic slows down on my blog, I start to wonder why and I think about more “provoking” or inspirational things to write about. Blogging, for me, is about camaraderie. I’m glad you feel the same way!

  6. This post says it all! I love to write and began blogging to have an outlet to do so. I do get excited when people read my stuff; it makes it all more fun. Sometimes, though, I worry that I am not writing interesting stuff for my blogging audience…

  7. Very interesting! I am so new at writing that I guess I haven’t given it much thought. Of course, I want people to read what I write but I guess I would never change what I write or how I write to please anyone because frankly I don’t think I could do that. I’m sure a crafty writer could do this! Keep doing what you’re doing, your writing is amazing!

    • Firstly, thanks for the compliment.
      Secondly, I think you are being humble. You have shown a talent for writing in your blogs. I am surprised that you never notice which are more popular and consider why you made that connection.

  8. A very interesting and thought provoking post. I write and I get the most satisfaction when others read my words, especially if they are moved by what I have to say. I do my best to stay true to myself when it comes to the topic of my writing, I don’t want the stats to drive my words. I love when I get new followers and new commenters but I don’t go out and actively seek them or go “like button clicking” or new blog following just to drive traffic my way. But the question remains, would I write if no one was reading. I think the answer is yes. But it would not be nearly as much fun.

    • I know what you mean about those who go “like button clicking.” I find it lame and cheesy. Anyway, likes are nice to have but it’s the comments that are the most enjoyable.
      I respect that you would write regardless. I don’t know if I would. I am glad that for those who are viewing and the blog and make it so (at least on my blog) I don’t have to truly consider that question.

  9. Well said. Writing for me is to make a connection. I don’t think I would write if not for that. I like knowing my words make people smile and think. My focus is not to reach everyone,but to make the ones I do have an enjoyable experience. It’s a gift I want to give them because my readers have given me so much.

    • Good to hear from you again. I agree with you. I am much less compulsive about checking my stats. I try to do it just once a day at the end. It is so easy to fall into the trap of being discontented.

  10. This is a constant battle I fight. I feel ridiculous and self-obsessed when I want others to read (and like) what I write. So I should write because I’m called to write, and then offer it as worship to the Creator.

    But that same Creator made a beautiful world, and then put people in it to enjoy it! Somehow something is missing when a creation, or the written word, or any thing, is not appreciated. The enjoyment of others completes it, somehow.

  11. One of my favorite authors lately is Lee Child, and I just read his very first novel with a new intro from Child himself, describing how he came up with his main character, Jack Reacher, and what he said was so simple that it struck a cord with me and has since affected my own writing and the way I look at the writings of others: He created the character (Reacher) to be the kind of hero that Child himself wanted to read about. To me, that’s the magic of being a writer… Being able to create a world all your own, and yet one that draws in other people at the same time. Blogging would be nearly pointless without readers to connect with. The more the merrier.

    • I saw an interview with him in a writing magazine. I can’t remember the details but I do recall that his goal was to be very commercial.
      I think you are right about the magic of being a writer.
      Last – the more the merrier – Amen!

  12. I get what you’re saying, and if I had the gift that you appear to have (and others have), I think I’d be right there with you. However, what I realized pretty quickly on my blog (after I started treating it more like a blog and less like a diary) was that the posts that got the most traffic were the ones where I post my recipes. Seriously. I only started posting recipes so that I could remember what I cooked. In essence, when I write for others, I fail. When I write to keep track of my haphazard ways in the kitchen, I somehow “succeed”? The posts that I felt passionate about, spent hours on, edited and re-edited, those may not have been “liked” but they meant the most to me. So, I’m with Goins. Anyone who notices and continues the conversation, merely bonus! Which, is why I have to thank you–you’re a great conversation continuer!

    • Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
      Firstly, I appreciate the compliments. A conversation continuer – I like that.
      Secondly, I am not a foodie, so I am at best mildly interested in recipe posts. However, you like them, and they work for you. So, that is great!
      Thirdly, I prefer story posts. One of your recent posts that I especially liked was entiteled Beauty = Bling, but not Really.
      Lastly, I definitely think Goins has some validity, but there needs to be a happy medium.

  13. What you say about moving people is a motivation for many writers, and its a powerful one. (Jonathan Franzen said he wrote because reading books made him feel less alone in the universe and he wanted to share that feeling with others.) But it also is true that we write things sometimes that we don’t want anyone to read. Just the act of putting thoughts on paper makes them more real and important, even if no one reads them. A respected Jewish sage (Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik) said: “Not everything that is thought needs to be said. Not everything that is said needs to be written. And not everything that is written needs to be read.”) So while writing is inherently an act of sharing, it can also mean sharing it with ourselves or with an audience in our minds who are not yet not flesh-and-blood.

    • Interesting comment about Franzden. I wonder if he is into blogging. I can undertand that some don’t want to share what they have written. There is no long term for that piece of writing. No bigger dialogue has been created. And in the bigger picture, part of art is creating that dialogue.

  14. I write to share, and as well I hope that people can connect with what I’ve said. I like the instant interactions and I just enjoy having a venue to express myself. 🙂

  15. I so agree! I started blogging because I was hoping to have immediate feedback to my writings. For years I’ve published scientific articles and, well, the response took months, years and required me to travel a lot, hold conferences. It was very tiring. This blog-writing is for me the best way to get in touch almost immediately with people who follow me or happen to stumble over my posts. I discovered this new blog-world 6 months ago and love it. I write because I have the need to express myself through writing and I like to be read. I love it when my words make people connect, smile or make them even happy. But I don’t expect it, I simply hope it and enjoy every response. 😉

  16. Hi,

    First, let me say Amen to this wonderful post, Why I Write. it is revealing and says a lot. Don’t laugh but I have never heard of Jeff Goins, but I will check him out immediately. There is so much in your article that I agreed with and it jarred me and made me think.

    It is true that I write out of a passion that drives me to put what I think on paper, but it is also true that I am passionately in love with the readers who read what I write. You see, I believe I have something to say. I have discovered my voice and write from my own beliefs and from the world that I live in within my mind. It is this world that I want to introduce people to. It is, what I call, my alternative world.

    Some may think that writing their book is satisfactorily, and I don’t have a problem with their way of thinking, but my highest satisfaction comes from others reading and sinking into my alternative world regardless of what genre I write in. That is one of the reasons why I don’t do a blog every week. It is important to me that the quality I put in my blogs mirror a reflection of maturity and professionalism. Sometimes it takes time for some of the things that I write about to mature within me and the research can be enormous, but the professionalism that comes from having a well thought out and well written blog is priceless. So having relegated my blogs to aids that not only help me find myself and walk my talk, but also blogs that will help others by assisting them to find their own way in life, the number of people who read my blog is important.

    I get a nice kick of joy and my adrenlin goes up as I let out a shout, when a reader who I have not known before, passes by my blog, reads it and send me a comment with, “thanks, I needed that today.”

    So yes, I want readers and many more readers than I have today. I want to grow in my writing and one of the signs of growth in your own writing is that your readers multiply. When I look at people like Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, John Updike, William Faulkner, Maya Angelou, Catherine Marshall, M.M. Kaye, Jeffrey Archer and many, many, more, I believe I can say that they had or have a ulterior motive behind their writing that made them, pertaining to the writers mentioned who are dead, or has made them, pertaining to the living writers mentioned, continue as they grow in writing. That motive was the desire to reach and influence people.

    Simply said, that is my desire whether it is in non-fiction or fiction, whether the platform is my blogs, a book, literary articles, or short stories, I want to reach out and influence people by what I write.


    • So glad you commented. Sometimes, when I write posts or specific lines, I have particular people in mind. When I wrote this, I was curious to hear what your reaction would be.
      That beleif that you have something to say and desire to have people hear it go hand in hand. After all if you have something that you feel is worthwhile, then you want people to hear it.
      Like the authors you mentioned (and I am sure many many more), I want to reach and influence people.
      Good luck to you as you put more and more of your work out there. I hope it will be heard by many and more.

  17. a very honest post, just as I like them to be. My intention for when I started my blog was to share my recipes or crafts and every now and then I would quote something I read somewhere interesting enough to share…After a while I realized that I actually enjoyed writing about every day life and although I was eager for my friends to read and follow me I found a new world, the blogging world. Slowly but steadily I found bloggers from all around the world and connected with them. I was obsessed with the statistics as well in the beginning but now I comfort myself with the cliche of: it is not quantity but quality that counts ;). If someone asked me if I were to still write if no one read my stuff my answer would probably be no…

    • Interesting the way your thoughts on blogging have changed/developed. Quality is very important to me as well. Numbers matter to me but I am not obsessed like I was. I love the connections that are made.

  18. I do it as much for the interaction as I do for the joy of taking a subject and hammering away until I find a way to do it justice. For me, the interaction must be reciprocal. The sharing of ideas and feedback fulfills my need to connect with people.

    One thing I’ve discovered about blogging is that it is very unfulfilling to have a one-way connection. If a fellow blogger does not at least occasionally pay me a visit and acknowledge my work, then I begin to question whether I should “follow” them. After all, I regard fellow bloggers as my peers, not followers. For me, the views are nowhere near as important as the conversations.

  19. When I started my blog it was never about people reading it because I didn’t think anyone would be interested in what I had to say, I just wanted to get back into writing and give my family in Holland a chance to see what I get up to, but now I love it when I see that people have read it and sometimes even liked it.

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