Why do writers write?

Why We WriteAs you would expect, the answer depends on which writer is asked. Ernest Hemingway once responded, “to get it out.”

However, you may be interested in what is provided in Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do, edited by Meredith Maran. It is available in a paperbound volume, sold by Amazon for only $12.53. Maran provides “vital” information about each author to accompany their extended and candid responses. Great stuff. Here are brief excerpts.

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From the Introduction:

George Orwell: “Sheer egoism…aesthetic enthusiasm…historical impulse.”

Joan Didion: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”

Terry Tempest Williams: “I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create fabric in a world that often appears black and white. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change.”

The 20 Writers

Isabelle Allende: “I write to tell a story.”

David Baldacci: “I can’t not write.”

Jennifer Egan
: “When I’m not writing I feel an awareness that something’s missing. If I go a long time, it becomes worse.”

James Frey: “I’m really not qualified to do anything else. At this point, it’s so much a part of my life that I can’t not do it.”

Sue Grafton: “I write because it’s all I know how to do.”

Sara Gruen: “The only thing that makes me crazier than writing is not writing.”

Kathryn Harrison: “I write because it’s the only thing that offers the hope of proving myself worthy of love.”

Gish Jen: “Writing is part and parcel of how I am in the world. Eating, sleeping, writing: they all go together.”

Sebastian Junger: “When I’m writing, I’m in an altered state of mind.”

Mary Karr: “I write to dream; to connect with other human beings; to record; to clarify; to visit the dead. I have a kind of primitive need to leave a mark on the world. Also, I have a need for money.”

Michael Lewis: “There’s no simple explanation for why I write. It changes over time. There’s no hole inside me to fill or anything like that, but once I started doing it, I couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything else for a living.”

Armistead Maupin: I write to explain myself to myself. It’s a way of processing my disasters, sorting out the messiness of life to lend symmetry and meaning to it.”

Terry McMillan: “I write to shed dead skin and to explore why people do the things that we do to each other and to ourselves.”

Rick Moody: “Why do I write? To do better for myself than I am capable of doing with language, out there, in real time. To repair inabilities, to restore confidences. And, at this point, because I don’t know what else to do. I just write as I breathe and eat. Every day. Habitually.”

Walter Mosley: “I really love putting words together to tell stories. It’s a great thing to do. I can’t think of a reason not to write. I guess one reason would be that nobody was buying my books. Come to think of it, that wouldn’t stop me. I’d be writing anyway.”

Susan Orlean: “Writing is all I’ve ever done. I don’t think of it as a profession. It’s just who I am.”

Ann Patchett: “I write because I swear to God I don’t know how to do anything else.”

Jodi Picoult: “I write because I can’t not write. Just ask my husband. If I have an idea circling in my brain and I can’t get it out, it begins to poison my waking existence, until I am unable to function in polite company or even hold a simple conversation.”

Jane Smiley: “I write to investigate things I’m curious about.”

Meg Wolitzer: “Though it’s pleasing, as a writer, to think that most of your life is a quest toward doing the kind of work that absorbs you most, sometimes I think that a good deal of my life is, perhaps, essentially a quest toward freedom from anxiety. Being engaged in prose, especially when it’s going well, can keep the anxiety of the world away.”

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