You know this question. Why do we do things? Why do we climb mountains? Travel? Have children? Eat poorly? Why? Why? Why? Each one has a different answer, so each question has the right to be asked. So let’s ask, why do we write?
Writing began simply as a means of communication. Talking is obviously the superior form of communicating, but what if that isn’t possible? Writing was an early substitute.
Writing gave the “speaker” the ability to be heard over great distances, and to be heard verbatim by two or twenty or two thousand people or even more, without having to repeat ones self. How cool is that?
But writing lacks in several areas
That sounds like sacrilege I know, but in truth, it is difficult to imbue inflection and tone, timing and expression in the written word.
Over the years, however, the desire to write has grown. Perhaps people want to be known, famous, maybe they want their story shared, possibly they wish to be remembered after death. Or perhaps the very problems that writing presents are viewed in fact as challenges.
There are two ways of being famous, live in a small town, or do big things. And of course, a combination of both of those things is also a perfectly valid approach.
Still, why write?
George Orwell suggested that one reason to write was egoism. George was very blunt. But to some extent, he was maybe more right than wrong. Consider those challenges mentioned above. How do you instill inflection in the written word? How do you make sure that your reader understands what you’ve written without you having to write in such minute detail that your reader falls asleep waiting for something to happen, or worse yet, puts your book back on the shelf … or in the recycling?
Personally, I can’t imagine who I’d be if I didn’t write. I certainly wouldn’t be me, and I like me. (Maybe there’s something to this Orwellian egoism at that …)
And I do write because I adore the challenge. I want to see people laugh at the foibles of my clumsy villains, cry at the conflicts presented to my lovable heroes, cheer on the successes and dust themselves off from the failures of the characters in my stories. And to tell the truth, though it takes more effort to write than it does to speak, once written, the words can be replicated any time they are needed. I need complete a story but once, get it right, and then I can hand it as written word to anyone I choose to.
Words can be thrown to the wind in the form of speech with the hope that they are making the right impression, or they can be carefully assembled into well crafted collections and revealed when needed with every expectation of the correct effect.
In short, I would have to answer the question of “Why do we write?” with a question of my own, “How could we not?”