The “Why do you write?” question is everywhere. At this point I can’t even tell if it’s rhetorical or not based on some of the answers I see my colleagues give. The literal explanations or poetic ones are sweet. The silly ones are more fun. Then there’s mine. I do the asshole answer-a-question-with-a-question thing. Why don’t YOU write?
It’s all in good silliness. That offers more room for conversation. Asking why a writer writes is like asking a doctor why they practice medicine, or why lawyers always seem to break the law. Okay scratch the law one, but for real, writing is something everyone does. Whether it’s just signing a name or actually trying to create a draft, literate people are forced to write even if they’re not writers.
Maybe that’s why the “Why do you write,” question makes me laugh. When people ask it, they really mean:
Why are you pursuing writing as a career?
“Do you really think this is a way to make a living?”
It’s a good question, don’t worry about that, but the answers usually sound as if someone asked:
Why do you publish?
Now there. THAT is a damn fine question.
Plenty of unseasoned authors play the, “as long as I reach one reader” game. And it’s sweet. It’s so cute. We all want to be that person. The thing is, you can write in a journal and share it with one person. Publishing is about reach. It’s about spreading your insanity in the hopes that other people will like it and validate you or maybe reassure you that you are, in fact, not insane.
That’s the connection route.
That’s me most of the time. I write, publish, share my work ─ whatever you want to call it ─ so I can connect with other people. So we can know we are not alone when we’re having the worst time ever AND see that light and share it when we’re on fire blazing atop Mt. Olympus. (I don’t buy into that “suffering creates art” junk. Strong emotions create the best art and “suffering” is the easiest one to pander to people because we have that whole self-preservation instinct still driving us)
The connection route works for some. It’s about love, peace, and sunshinies. Even when writing out the worst of my pain I’m doing it to help others know they will survive.
Then there’s the immortality route
Plenty of writers work to leave something behind when they’re gone. Whether they believe in an afterlife or not is irrelevant. They strive to be remembered. To stop time for a moment and leave their mark. This is not to say that they don’t wish to help others and connect with their audience in life. It’s that they are looking at the grand scheme.
This route is full of self-contempt because it’s also a search for perfection. It places an immeasurable amount of pressure on a person. It often paints a bleak future to scare younger generations into prevention.
Neither is better than the other. There are also writers who just write because they’re bored or they want to escape life, but that often veers into one of these two approaches.
What I’ve found is that women generally (not all) like to connect. We’re social creatures (mostly) and that makes sense. We’re the positive outlook and the immortality route is the balance. It’s not negative as in bad, but as in dark. This makes sense to me being that the male brain (not all, of course-put your torches down) is more isolated. Men do not need as much social interaction (oftentimes).
When isolating one’s self the work is less about the current audience and more about who may pick it up later. It’s like a living will almost.
Here lies your legacy.
Write it well.
I’m a tomboy so I fall into this pit sometimes as well. It makes my work shift depending on the mood. Maybe more authors are like this, I don’t know, but I like to mix the two. I intend to reach out to whomever I can for now, and then if my work survives me that’s a bonus.
There have been a lot of death jokes going around lately since there’s an influx of it looming in my life right now. That’s how it is. It’s a natural part of existence, but it’s also led me to decide something very personal. Something I think every writer needs to think about and get in writing.
I know how I want my work handled after I’m gone.
I want all my published works to become eminent domain as soon as I die. My children have college funds. I want them to make their own way, as I did. Any unpublished manuscripts will become my husbands to do with as he chooses (so long as he makes them eminent domain upon HIS death as well haha)
This way, I can connect and maybe get a little bit of immortality too. Really I just don’t want some greedy corporation to buy my rights and destroy something I love. I’m not sure if this has been done before, but I’m going to do what I can to make it legal. For now, I’ve got more connections to make.