Why do you write?


Recently a reader contacted me, wondering what inspires me to write. What’s my main reason for writing? Is it to provoke thought in a reader? Here’s my reply:


Dear X,

I read your message with great interest, and your question kept crossing my mind over the next few days as I asked it of myself: why do I write? I’ve asked myself this before many times, but it’s always good to revisit the question.
I’ll start off by saying that I don’t begin a writing project with the idea of provoking thought. At least not in a reader. Not yet. For me, a story or a novel begins much more hazily than that, with an image or situation that I can’t let go of. I want to explore it in words, usually without knowing why. So I start writing. And the writing starts provoking thought in myself: what kind of story is this? How do I feel about these characters and this situation? What effect am I trying to achieve? Why does this story matter to me?
There are plenty of writers who don’t work this way. They conceive of a central idea or theme to begin with, then they create an outline, and everything proceeds according to a plan. I find I can’t work like that. For me, writing is discovery. It’s messy. It’s a journey into the unknown. I don’t write to say something, I write to have something said to me, by the work itself. Or something shown to me that I hadn’t seen before. 
If I wasn’t a writer I’d probably be a painter or musician, because for me, creativity is the real answer to the question of why I write. The desire to create something new with my own mind and hands. I don’t know where this creative urge comes from — I’ve always had it. But it’s first and foremost a desire to challenge and please myself by crafting something new with care and attention. If the work also pleases readers (and maybe provokes thought in them, too) then I feel very fortunate. 
So if you don’t have a satisfactory answer for yourself as to why you write, I wouldn’t be too concerned about that. I don’t either and I suspect a lot of writers would say the same. For some reason we need this daily creative challenge. 
best regards,
Tom Wharton

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