Why Does Anyone Write?


When asked if he loved to write, Hemingway replied, “Hate to write, love to have written.” His answer implies that he would much rather be doing something else, deep sea fishing for marlin off Cuba perhaps, but that he felt compelled to sit and write to achieve a result.

There are two main reasons to write:

1. Sales, money, fame,etc.

2. To express an idea or proclaim an event.

Hemingway wrote for the first reason and, I might add, achieved his goal remarkably. So did Herman Wouk and so many others. This is not to say these authors wrote tripe or unserious work. They certainly did not. They expressed ideas, philosophies and railed against social issues, but they mainly wanted sales and said as much. So do most authors, great or unknown.

However, some write for the second reason such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Varlam Shalamov. They cared less for sales and wrote solely to tell an idea or an event. But how, you ask, can a writers motivation be known to you? Because, these Russian authors wrote during the reign of Stalin and they had no chance of being published, ever. Their motivation had to be to tell those who might come across their manuscripts one day of the horrors of the gulag. Rather than getting paid, they faced prison and torture as reward for their labors.

So what’s the point? It’s simply to determine why you are writing. Is it for sales? Then before you ever start, determine who the readers of your work will be, what they like and what they want to hear. If you learn this accurately, you will more than likely be successful—eventually.

However, if you write for the second reason, your sales may never achieve significance, but you’ll experience a daily joy and an inner release from a sense of obligation. In my own case, each day I look forward to writing, unlike Hemingway, and when finished, I can’t wait to sit at my desk again. In fact, I’m grouchy and difficult to live with if away from writing very many days in succession. This is true even though it’s still hard work, sometimes exhausting, often frustrating, but inevitably pleasurable?

So, determine before you ever sit down, what your motivation for writing is to be. Success? An income? Recognition? Or is it to express an inner urging that won’t be quieted?