Why do we write the books we write?
I look at my latest novel and I think, why? Why did I write it, that book, that particular book in that particular way? Why didn’t I write a different novel, or write it in a different way? Why didn’t someone else write that novel? Why do I write any book at all nowadays?
Don’t get me wrong, I love Fixing Mrs Philpott, and lots of other people have told me they do too. (Allow me to toss in a few encouraging adjectives from my 24 fans: exuberant, giggling, positive, terrific writing, great fun, feminist, intrepid, life-affirming, adorable…) I love my funny worried self-deluding heroine and the cover and the entire concoction of stories and characters and earthquakes and sex and unstoppable tips from friends and strangers. Nevertheless, I’m puzzled about why I wrote it.
Not about why I write books in general: that’s fairly straightforward (on the surface). I love writing books, that’s why. I get high on the adventure, the puzzle, the impossibly difficult project. It’s how I get my thrills— intellectual (as half-formed ideas stretch out and colonise my brain), emotional (fear, pride, fear, the ecstasy of Flow), and aesthetic. That’s enough reason, surely?
But still, why writing instead of say, mathematics or scuba diving? A bunch of writing genes, a library habit, a ready-made audience of five sisters? No, because then we would have six poet-novelists in the family. Maybe some credit is due to aphantasia, leading me to compensate for mind-blindness with extra skills in language, narrative, and abstract thinking. That’s a stretch. Maybe the fact that my mother was briefly engaged to an eminent poet. (What? No. No!)
Who cares? I write books. I can’t help it. It’s a habit.
You are different. You write for your own particular reasons. I wonder what they are… maybe you’ll tell me…
That leaves the specific question: why did I write Fixing Mrs Philpott? I’ll leave that for another day.
10 thoughts on “Why do we write the books we write?”
We write because the muse tells us to!
This interests me because I don’t, exactly. I probably have 100 write-worthy thoughts a day (as you do?) but a decision is also involved. Hm, I’ve got a free ten minutes, what shall I write about today? The muse hovers ever ready for our willingness and intentions.
“I get high on the adventure, the puzzle, the impossibly difficult project. It’s how I get my thrills— intellectual (as half-formed ideas stretch out and colonise my brain), emotional (fear, pride, fear, the ecstasy of Flow), and aesthetic.”
Best account of Why write? that I’ve read in a while – beautifully succinct!
Seems we have something in common here. I never count on that!
I write because something or someone catches hold of my mind and won’t let go, mostly they just cling on more and more tightly until I am forced to write their story. In many cases though the writing tends to take on a life of it’s own and the end result is not always what I sat down to write. This was especially true of my latest, a novella about the death of an elderly parent – that one wrote itself and throughout I just felt like the instrument that was pressing the keys which was a disconcerting experience. If you’re curious you’ll find it on my blog with a link but I’m not pushing it !! People tend to come to it when they need it and the lovely thing about writing about death is that at some point everyone goes looking for some solace or explanation and I feel honoured to have helped others along the way.
I understand. You know the irresistible joy of the flow.
Hold on–five sisters and a library habit–we have a lot in common! I think having five sisters forces a library habit. It’s your only solitary time:).
I love the way you answered your question, Rachel, as davekingsbury pointed out in his comment. But I find myself unable to write a quick answer to it. I’m going to have to stew for a bit. The easy thing to say is that I write because it’s my passion, but that’s an easy pass, and i want to dig deeper. I’ll let you know when I have.
I feel mean because mine is a very very simple answer. I know more complex issues underlie it but it suits my temperament and is true. I’m looking forward to your answer.