Why do writers write? Other than to get paid, do we really get anything from performing our craft? Is it all about chasing the next paycheck? Is it for that long-shot at fame? Seeing our name in print? Insanity?
I believe that most writers get into the game because they have a need to write, to tell a story or paint a picture with words, and initially we all think we’ll be the next Great Writer. While we’re furiously pounding away at our keyboards or wearing pencils down to the eraser, we see the goal out there in the murky distance, the image of a hardback book at the local bookstore with our name emblazoned on the front cover. It is the proverbial carrot dangling from a stick. We are the mules.
Eventually, however, we come to realize that perhaps that dream is out of reach, at least in the ways we imagined, so we push it to the back of our minds and continue our work with words. Some of us get lucky and pick up jobs where we can actually write for a living. For the others, it’s a monotonous nine-to-five job and late nights spent in front of the keyboard. Either way, we continue because we can’t refuse The Call. And still, even when we are blocked or feel like giving up, that vision of success persists in the back of our minds.
But does dreaming of success make us shallow? While I feel that recognition is one of the driving forces – every writer wants to see their name in print – it isn’t the only reason. Some writers do it for money, some just because they have to, but in the end we all want to see our name on that book jacket. We all want to open the newspaper or go online and see our name on a best seller list. It’s a noble dream. To be known, to be read, to be remembered.
What drives me to continue writing is a desire to connect to people, to make them think, to make them feel, to give them an alternative view of something. This isn’t to say I’m opposed to getting paid or receiving some sort of recognition. That’s just gravy. My main goal will always be to have a reader out there somewhere who enjoys what I’ve written, who will pause afterwards and think to themselves, “hey, that was pretty good.” I don’t think that’s too much to strive for.
Even when I worked as a full-time copywriter I continued to work on my fiction and poetry. Why? Because I have to answer The Call. I may work for months on a story that no one will ever read, but that’s okay. The point is that I wrote it. I transferred that story, those images, and those characters from my imagination to the page. I took smoke and made something substantial out of it. Writing is in my blood. Other writers can understand that. We have to do it, regardless of whether we want money or fame. We write because we have to write. That’s all there is to it.
In the end, all I really want is to know that my words are out there, that someone has read them, and that they enjoyed what I wrote.