Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why Do We Write?

“Find something you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” – Harvey MacKay

I am reading a captivating, well-written novel, the girls, by Lori Lansens. I haven’t finished it, but I ran across a passage that rang so true for me as I writer, I wanted to share it.

“…I’m filled with confidence when I begin, but by the end of a writing night I’m left to wonder if other writers feel the way I do—that with each letter, word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, I’m digging a toehold, gripping a rock, a fool on a mountainside, alone and ill-equipped, a disastrous fall more likely than a gloried ascent. Why did I start climbing? Where am I now? Who gives a shit if I reach the summit?”

Though I could never have worded it as eloquently as Lansens did, I do have those “why” and “who cares” moments. My answer is always the same – I’m doing it for me, I care. The joy I get out of writing is enough to keep me going.

I don’t support myself by writing (though I’d like to), so I’m certainly not in the same league as the writers interviewed in the for the article, "Writing for a Living: a joy or a chore?" I found the replies to this question very interesting.

I liked Al Kennedy’s (no relation, as far as I know) comparison—“To use a not ridiculous analogy: Sex = nice thing. Sex For Cash = probably less fun, perhaps morally uncomfy and psychologically unwise.”

Carol Joyce Oates said, “…most literary writers obviously don't write for money – a prose fiction writer's hourly wage, broken down into units, would be in the modest range of the US minimum wage of the 1950s – approximately $1 per hour.”

She goes on to say, “To me, who has written for most of her adult life, in a number of genres and with wildly varying degrees of "enjoyment" and/or "misery", it's likely that writing is a conscious variant of a deep-motivated unconscious activity, like dreaming. Why do we dream? No one seems to really know, just as no one seems to really know why we crave stories, even or especially stories we know to be fiction. My experience of writing – of writing these very sentences, for instance – is invariably a blend of the initially "inspired" and the more exacting, or plodding, execution of inspiration.”

John Banville said, “The novelist daily at his desk eats ashes, and if occasionally he encounters a diamond he is likely to break a tooth on it. Money is necessary to pay the dentist's bills.”

Julie Meyerson sums it up, “I feel very lucky to be paid to do it, but even if I'd never been published, I think I'd still be writing. I love being read, but the person I'm really always writing for is me.”

So you tell me, is writing a joy or a chore?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: Harvey Mackay, Lori Larsens, the girls, Al Kennedy, Joyce Carol Oates, John Banville, Julie Meyerson,


Helen Ginger said...

Most of the time it's joy. That isn't to say it's not work. But if you're doing work that you love, then ... there's nothing else you'd rather be doing.

Straight From Hel

Marvin D Wilson said...

I write because I can.

And I love it. I don't care if I fall. I have to do it.

The Old Silly

Karen Walker said...

I began writing in journals as therapy, so for me it was healing. It still is. It has also become a joy. Trying to find the right words said in just the right way to communicate what I'm trying to say makes me happy. If someone else receives it, well, that's a bonus. If I just focus on the writing itself, I'm a happy camper.
Karen Walker

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think it's both. But I love it most of the time.

Mystery Writing is Murder

L. Diane Wolfe said...

It's still a joy, but there's moments of chore when faced with a deadline.

L. Diane Wolfe

Alexis Grant said...

Honestly, writing feels like a chore. But it's worth it because I love revising, I love editing, I love making it better all around, and I really love having the finished product in my hand.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane,
Great post. I love writing once I get into it, but having the self-discipline to write daily is the challenge.

I've heard Joyce Carol Oates, James Lee Burke and others talk about their writing schedules - sometimes it sounds like almost a monastic existence, and I admit I'll never be up for that. Too many other enjoyable diversions. For example, today my husband has enticed me to go see "Public Enemies." A couple of hours ogling Johnny Depp and Christian Bale ain't bad, IMHO.

Julie Lomoe's Musings Mysterioso

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Joy or a chore? well, mostly it's fun. Aspects of it are a chore, but, on balance, it's fun. For me, it's very much like fly fishing. Mostly fun, but sometimes tedious, embarrassing, expensive, and frustrating. But, mostly fun.

Best regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Nancy J. Parra said...

The joy of writing, for me, is in the discovery-of a new idea or some cool bit of dialog, or action.

So, yes, there is joy- great post!

Joanne said...

It's definitely a joy, with "chore" moments, but well worth the efforts. I think for me the love for it, the joy, is apparent in how time almost ceases to exist as I put words to paper.

John said...

Diane, you and I sound like polar opposites. I love the writing, but hate the revising and editing. To me, the chore starts when I finish a book - because I have to go back and make revisions and each little revision affects something else and then that revision affects yet another element - and it gets confusing and muddled. With FGZ, I just got the story out and revised the grammar - I decided to leave the story alone. In my next two books, I revise as I write. If I introduce something that doesn't fit the character of the story or if a character changes, I'll go back and fix it as I'm writing. But I'd look forward to the day I consider writing a "chore," because that would mean it's bringing in a significant source of income. Those with deadlines should really consider themselves lucky - because I'd kill to have deadlines to meet.

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world