Why We Write
Why do I write? This is a question that I have been asking myself for a few months now and I am not sure if I have the answer, but I will try and dig one up through these words.
I have been writing stories for at least twenty years, ever since I started to work on screenplays for independent films my friends and I would make over the summer. The stories we would write were always parodies of successful movies like the James Bond films, Superman and so on. We had a lot of fun just getting together as a group of teenagers and make the silliest things we could think of. There was not a lot of depth there, but that is where my thirst for storytelling began to awaken.
When I was on guard duty in the Army, I would sneak into the guard hut and write short scenes and some of the stories that I work on were born there. I would sketch out universes after lights-out and took inspiration from all the odd characters that I encounter as bunkmates, such as the guy who wouldn’t shower and washed his feet in the sink. He would become the inspiration for the depraved vampire in one of my first stories.
At that time, I did not write to be published. In fact, I was convinced most of my ideas were derivative and low-grade, but I would note down everything I came up with. I still have a lot of those notes and I go back to them every now and then just a reminder of how far I’ve progressed, and sometimes just to seek inspiration. Some of your earliest ideas might actually contain some nuggets of gold.
But what was it that drew me to writing? Was it my friends who wanted to make films or was there something more? As a species, we have been telling stories for as long as we have had language. Some would claim that some of the central stories in our culture are so old they might have been around since the beginning of time. Origin stories like Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden can be seen as evidence of humanity gaining awareness of their own existence.
As a species, we seem to record ancient memories in stories that often lets us know how people of that time thought. Of course these memories are not meant to be taken literally, as in the case of Fairy Tales or creation myths, as science has shown throughout our technological development. These stories appear to have a more profound effect on us due to their ability to be entertaining as well as informative. We have all had the stereotypical teachers on both ends, the teacher that masters the story to teach something which engages the audience, and the teacher that simply summarizes facts and expects you to learn from them. Which one is more likely to teach you something? I would guess that most would say the first example.
As writers we are the record-keepers of the lessons and moral discussions of our time as much as we are entertainers that provide an escape to our readers. If we do our job well, we teach in way that makes the audience or readers engaged. Acting as a teacher simply listing a bunch of facts or propaganda does not engage anyone, or at least a minority of students. Most people do not want be bombarded with the author’s political or socioeconomic opinions. They want to be able to draw their conclusions on their own, or at least in cooperation with the author.
This connects nicely up with why I write. I can’t really help but tell stories. It is how I think and my main way of exhibiting my ideas. I can’t just make a list of the things I believe, because it may change as I tell the story, and information can often be lost in translation. Writers are teachers to a certain extent, but they are teachers that inspire and entertain. I think that writers work as prophets in some manner. We see something that is wrong or can be done differently and we want to point it out. It is a very human endeavor.
I do believe that I write because I have something to tell people before I leave this world. There is something that I possess that needs to be out there. It may seem like a very egotistical way of looking at it, but I am not after fame or fortune and I don’t think that should be your main focus. If it comes along, then fine. It will leave more time for you to write, but writing and storytelling is something far more and far deeper than just to entertain and make people escape from the real world.