Friday, November 8, 2019

Why Are You A Writer?

There's been a lot of discussion here lately about the how-to's of being a writer. Well, let's set those aside for a moment and take this from a slightly different angle. So you want to be a writer? Well, I just waved my internet wand and - poof! - you're a writer! You now have all the rights and privileges bestowed on writers, you know the secret handshake, and you get the writer's discount at McDonald's. Now what?

The real hook to being a writer is not asking how you become one, but why you want to.

A guidance counselor once gave me this nugget of advice: "Give me three reasons you want to pursue that career. If you can't give at least three reasons, it won't bring any satisfaction." (Full disclosure: This is what led me to a career in economic analytics, not writing. That was a full and satisfying career, so I applied the same test when I decided to write.) Anyway, I discovered that sometimes, we want to do something or become something, but we never look at why  we want to pursue that craziness. So let's explore some answers people have given me.

"Well, I like to write." Excellent, but not a full answer. I hear that and it sounds like an unfinished sentence. I like to write... what? Any answer works, but something more is necessary. Even if you like to write about everything, explore a little more in-depth and discover what gets those words flowing. What is the highest high for your writing interest? Targeting a very specific part of writing that gets everything really going is critical to being a writer.

"I enjoy turning my feelings into words." This is one of my favorite answers to hear because it captures the magic of writing. Think about this for a moment - everything in the creative writing genre incorporates this technique of expressing very elaborate, abstract emotions using only a limited world of words. This is like magic, but it also places a lot of demands on a person. Writing is actually more than just feelings distilled to the page, so any writer who uses this as their answer should be prepared to explore the world beyond personal expression.

"I have a story to tell." This is my least-favorite answer to hear, but not for a bad reason. First, everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has hundreds of stories to tell. Some are better than others, but the main takeaway is that writing is only one of many ways to do this. If your prime purpose is to let everyone know about something that happened to you that will change their lives, that's not a healthy reason to pursue life as a writer. it might be easier to find someone who will write your story, and share an author credit on this life-changing book. However, if your idea is to share your many stories and ideas with the world as a way to entertain and communicate, maybe that's a more compelling reason.

"I've always wanted to write a book." Please stop. We all think about that big step, but it's a goal, not an interest. I've always wanted my name to be an answer to a Trivial Pursuit question, but that's hardly something I can pursue directly. That requires many other little steps that are nothing like the goal I want to achieve, and if I can't find interest in those little steps, I will never make it to the bookshelf.

The secret to the question of "Why...?" is exploring where your real interests lie. It is about focus and insight, about examining yourself and dissecting the question down to the little bits and pieces. Somewhere inside this deep bit of self-examination is the true answer of why you want to be a writer. It might surprise you when you see it, but when you rise up and can hold that one truth, then being a writer is surprisingly easy because you know exactly what goal to pursue.


2 comments:

  1. I write with the desire to inspire others to think and take action.

    ReplyDelete