The Reasons We Write


This question has floated through my head often lately, as I face the reality of making an actual living as a writer (or perhaps the impossibility of that).

Yet I still write.

As I reflect on this question, answers come from various sources, and I thought I would like to share some of them. First is this lovely post by K8edid, called “When I Write” which I am quoting partially here to tempt you over to read the whole thing if you haven’t:

“Sometimes I’m filled with joy

And want to record the fullness of my heart

Can you hear it? my soaring spirit.

That is when I write. . . .

Today, as I was doing research toward one of my projects by reading Louisa May Alcott by Susan Cheever, I came across this passage that got me thinking more about why we writer and who writers are:

Susan Cheever

“What makes someone want to be a writer? Clearly, one thing this dream requires is a ferocious hunger, a hunger for recognition, a yearning to be heard that roars through the soul with a sound so great that the stories often feel as if they are discovered rather than invented. Writing also requires a kind of divine perversity. The writer stands outside the conventional world looking in with a vision sharp enough to describe things in ways that are both recognizable and entirely surprising. Good writing is almost always subversive. It uses the nuts and bolts of the texture of everyday life to communicate…”

I decided to search for more notable quotes from writers as they try to explain why they write.  Here are some that I particularly liked:

“It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition.” – Isaac Asimov

“Why do writers write? Because it isn’t there.”- Thomas Berger

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”- Orson Scott Card

“The imagination is the spur of delights…all depends upon it, it is the mainspring of everything; now, is it not by the means of the imagination one knows joy? Is it not of the imagination that the sharpest pleasures arise?”- Marquis De Sade

“There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.”- Edward Gibbon

“A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.”- Eugene Ionesco

“The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its supreme purpose through him.”- Carl Jung

Oddly enough, the above list comes from men. I wonder what female writer’s have to say? No surprise, but it is a little harder to find these quotes:

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life; they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”__ Anne Lamott

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else”.__ Gloria Steinem

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.”__ Virginia Woolf

My favorite quote, so far, however (besides K8did’s poem) comes from the wisest philosopher of all:

Disney's adaptation of Stephen Slesinger, Inc....

Image via Wikipedia

“But it isn’t easy,” said Pooh. “Because Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.”
__ Winnie-the-Pooh

There you have it, some words of wisdom about why we write. Yet, I still don’t have a real answer. So, for the sake of community, I ask you, Why do you write? Add your answer below.

31 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathryn McCullough
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 07:51:48

    Great post, Lisa. I love the Susan Cheever quote–the part about good writing requiring we say things in ways both entirely new and entire recognizable.

    I write because not writing is not an option. I write because I know no other way of living, no other way of knowing and understanding and making meaning. I write because I am.



  2. LittleMissVix
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 08:22:47

    Great post Lisa. Plus another book idea for you – women’s thoughts on writing?!
    Anyway, I write because of all the ideas in my head, I write because I have an overactive imagination, I write because it makes me happy and I write because I love to read and I want others to love what I write.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Nov 16, 2011 @ 10:43:15

      In a way that is one of the projects I’m already “working” on. I’m glad writing makes you happy. Reading your writing makes me happy.


  3. Tori Nelson
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 09:28:05

    I write because I’d like to see if anyone else notices these tiny, tiny things about life. I love the Orson Scott Card quote, that writers see story ideas and feel compelled to write them. I’m always so surprised when I talk to friends and they say they’d write but they have nothing to write about. My biggest challenge is focusing on just one thing to write about.


  4. k8edid
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 09:49:53

    Lisa, thanks so much for the mention. My poem was one of those “spilling forth” moments in which I wasn’t so much a participant as a vehicle…I’m probably not saying that quite right. I guess it is a matter of the thought or idea, or event “has me” instead of the other way around . Anyway, I do like the idea of a book about women’s thoughts on writing – and of course I’d support you in whatever way I could.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Nov 16, 2011 @ 10:41:43

      My pleasure. I completely understand what you mean by “spilling forth” moments and being vehicle rather than the participant. I love those moments, and generate my best work when I find myself in one. Too bad it doesn’t happen more often.


  5. Ed Williams
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 09:51:03

    “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else”.__ Gloria Steinem

    … always one of my favorite quotes Lisa. Thanks for including it.

    GOOD writing is such a GIFT really. Some days I have it, some I don’t… but I keep doing it because it’s part of who I am. Do I care if others read it? Sure. Do I care if others like it? Yep. But more importantly it allows me to attempt to paint with words and phrases and (gads!) punctuation and to SEE things and FEEL things that I like to express.

    Don’t EVER stop writing. I love the fact that you do it daily (give or take a break or two).


  6. winsomebella
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 15:40:56

    I loved K8edid’s post and am so glad you’ve continued this good discussion with this great post. I am with Tori here, I like the Orson Scott Card quote. I have trouble turning off the words playing in my head at night. I am not as good as I should be at getting everything down. I get distracted by my own distractions 🙂


  7. Arlee Bird
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 19:37:36

    I asked a related question on my blog this past Monday. The general consensus was most of us write because we enjoy it. That in itself is good enough for me since if I weren’t writing I’d be doing something else about which I might ask why I do it.
    Another reason that comes to mind would be related to grocery shopping. When I just go knowing that I need certain things I will invariably forget some of them and come home with others that I hadn’t planned on getting. For this reason I write to remember. Whether it be a simple list for groceries or things to do, or a recounting of what I’ve done, thought, or imagined, writing it down helps me remember and record it in case anyone else wants to read about those things.

    Essentially I write because I must.

    Best selling author Lani Diane Rich visits
    Tossing It Out
    Wednesday November 16th.


  8. Lisa Wields Words
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 20:24:38

    Three excellent reasons to write! I’ll come check out your post. Sorry I missed it.



  9. Rose
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 01:30:42

    The Susan Cheever and Gloria Steinem are my favourites! You generated a joyful discussion. I think I write because it’s the only way I come to understanding about myself, the only way I can refine my perspective, determine what’s bugging me or why I think someone else is wrong. True or not, I also feel like it’s the only way to allow others to understand me at all. Those things together are what make it fun.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Nov 17, 2011 @ 07:51:41

      I know that when I am feeling something passionately I express myself better in writing than when trying to talk my words out.


  10. Robin Hawke
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 14:08:48

    I write because I’m no good at politics but I want to change the world.


    Loved the quotations.


  11. Trackback: I write because I’m no good at politics but I want to change the world. « Robin Hawke
  12. Leila
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 14:31:05

    Simply put, I write to get the voices out of my head so I can sleep! 🙂


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Nov 17, 2011 @ 16:32:40

      That often backfires on me when the words wake me up and I have to write anyway so I can someday go back to sleep.


  13. sterlingsop
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 15:41:37

    I write because I need the safety valve!! Thanks for the question 🙂


  14. thehonestone
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 21:37:11

    I hardly call what I do writing ha ha ha, I comment on life. But when I do comment, it allows me to express the way I really see and feel about life.
    Sometimes I simply don’t do that in practice, but in writing it out I capture the essence of the moments…


  15. Trackback: 500 Posts, Now What? « Woman Wielding Words
  16. eof737
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 16:57:00

    I write because I must… I feel compelled to connect with others through the written word. Have a splendid weekend! 🙂


  17. Trackback: Riding on the Coattails of Fame « Woman Wielding Words
  18. writingfeemail
    Nov 19, 2011 @ 08:56:35

    I write because the thoughts in my head need a place to go and because I can’t not write. I often wonder what is in the heads of people who aren’t narrating their lives as they live it.


  19. Trackback: Take the Legs off Flies, Blog Awards, and Writing « Robin Hawke

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