Why Do You Write What You Do?

There are different reasons people write.  Some write to educate, some to gain prestige, some to inspire, some to entertain, some to simply see their story in their own hands (or eReader), some to pay bills, and other reasons I hadn’t thought of.

There is no right or wrong reason to write.  We are all different.  Our needs and desires are not the same.  In other words, there is no one-size fits all way of doing any of this.  This is why you can’t pinpoint a specific formula on what someone did and get the same results.  Everyone’s results are going to vary.  Unlike the 2+2=4 equation, writing and the byproducts of writing are not fixed.

The first thing you want to figure out is why you are writing.

You can have more than one reason.  Often, we have a couple anyway.  I’ll list some possible reasons.

1.  The love of writing

For some writers, they write because they love it.  If they didn’t write, they’d go crazy.   They need to write.  It is an essential part of who they are.  But there are some writers who could leave it all behind.  If they never wrote another word in their lives, they’d be perfectly content.  This distinction right here is where all the other reasons for writing branch out into different categories.

2.  Writing to inform, inspire, entertain, gain prestige, money, pleasure…and so on

Nonfiction vs. fiction.  There can be some overlap in these areas.  A person writing fiction might take some experience in their lives or in someone else’s life and weave that into a story.  A person wishing to inform people about a certain product might weave in a fictional example to help get their point across.

An owner of a business might write a book teaching people about their product to help gain credibility as a business owner.  Or maybe that owner hopes to boost sales for the product or earn more money by selling the book.  A professor might write an article for a journal to gain some prestige.  A writer might write a book in hopes of becoming a household name.  Someone who is the sole breadwinner of the family has a greater need to provide a living through their writing than someone who has a spouse who earns the living.  Someone who wants to share their journey with others and help them through a rough time may not care at all about money.

3.  Writing for yourself or others

Some people write for themselves.  Some write for a niche group.  Some for a wide audience.

I know there are some people who argue that if you write only for yourself, you have no business publishing a book, but I disagree with that.  Everyone has a right to publish a book, regardless of their reason for writing.  Not everyone writing is looking for money or has a plan to promote their book.  If you just want to have a copy of your book in your hands and on your eReading device, there’s nothing wrong with that.  If you want to write for a small group of people, there’s no reason why you can’t do that.  One of the best things about self-publishing is that it’s opened the door for a variety that wasn’t there before.

For people looking to write for a wider audience, narrow down your audience.  Even if you want the widest audience possible, your book will not appeal to every single person from 0-100 regardless of religious faith, cultural background, economic status, etc.  For example, a hardcore 40-year-old science fiction lover is probably not going to want to read a New Adult romance.  It’s possible but not likely.  Knowing your audience will help you tailor your books to that group when you write them.

You can write for yourself and a wider audience.  Usually, that seems to be the case with fiction writers.  Perhaps you love writing horror and happen to find an audience who shares your joy for horror.  That’s having your cake and eating it, too. And there’s nothing wrong with writing primarily for yourself and happening to build a fan base while you’re at it.  Likewise, there are some authors who don’t care for a certain genre but write it for their audience.  Again, it’s fine to do it that way if that is what falls into the writer’s goals.  Someone on a forum mentioned that they write what they do because that is what pays the bills.  But the stories this writer chooses is based solely off what the fans want, and I’m sure that affects the approach the writer uses when writing their books.

The reasons are not limited to these things but hopefully this will help you think of your own reasons for writing.

Next time I post, it’ll be about using the reasons we write what we do and developing a strategy for what you write and a publishing schedule.

Categories: Psychology of Writing & Publishing, The Writer & Author

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23 thoughts on “Why Do You Write What You Do?

  1. For me, it’s always been a combination of these reasons. It’s why I keep working so hard to expand my audience and improve my craft. Great post, Ruth.

  2. Great post and answers :)

  3. theprojectsofmichaelpugh

    I write because if I don’t, my head gets ‘weird’ – intrusive thoughts, flashbacks etc. One day, hopefully, I’ll have said everything that I need to say and I can just be happy and at peace, but for the moment, it’s a lot like trying to ignore an uncouth elephant in the room if I’m not writing. Writing’s fun when it’s going well and seeing the work in print is nice, but it’s that feeling of being relentlessly pursued/harassed/pressurised by the things that I need to say that ‘makes’ me write.

  4. Reblogged this on D. Emery Bunn and commented:
    A great piece about how our motivations as writers could be way different, and yet we accomplish similar things in the end.

  5. Hi Ruth,
    I love to write. I also love to entertain. My writing depends on my mood at that particular time. Sometimes, I reflect on my past but, as I like to stay positive, I tend not to dwell too much on that area. I am a ‘random’ person by nature so this is how my posts and stories appear. Being paid for my ‘randomness’ would be a bonus but writing is fulfilling enough for me, at the moment.
    Great post.
    Christine

    • There’s nothing wrong with writing a variety of things. My reading tastes vary a lot from what I write, so I can see wanting to branch out and explore different things to write about. I agree, it would be a bonus if you could get paid for your ‘randomness’. :D I started out writing without any thoughts to getting paid for it. Back then, I had no idea it was even possible to get any money from self-publishing. So you never know what the future will bring.

  6. ronfritsch

    Thank you, Ruth, for posting this. I simply have to write. It’s the most enjoyable thing I do in life. To writers such as myself, the online self-publishing world seems filled with hectoring voices. If we don’t spend huge amounts of our time and money on marketing campaigns, we’ll never become “best sellers” and we’ll always be failures. It’s such a relief to hear a voice like yours assuring us that writers don’t all have to share the same goals. Thanks again.

    • I get tired of reading forum topics and blog posts dedicated solely to making money and being a huge selling author. I didn’t start self-publishing to sell books. I got into it because I wanted to see my books in paperback and then (when Kindle and Smashwords took off) in ebook. It was a lot easier than lugging my spiral notebook or binder around. I used to put my stories in those.

      The notion that you have to spend a lot of time and money on marketing campaigns isn’t always true. I’ve heard of lots of authors who do these things but don’t yield the results they are hoping for. I’d rather spend my time writing, which is a lot more enjoyable.

      Success is being happy doing what you love to do most. Nothing’s more fun than sitting down and writing another book. :D

  7. I write the kinds of books I like to read, which probably means very few other people will. I also hope that one day, the action figures lined up on my desk will be from my own books. That would be making it, for me.

    Cheers

    MTM

  8. Because it is a fetus that desperately needs to be given birth.

  9. At the risk of sounding “commercial”, I write to try to make enough money so I can someday quit my full time job, or at least make enough extra so I won’t have to live from paycheck to paycheck. That being said, I can’t think of a better, more interesting, fun way to make a living. Really, what could be more fun than making a living making stuff up? I do love to write, so it’s part the money and part the enjoyment of the whole thing. I’ll admit, I’m not one of those writers who HAVE to write or go crazy, but I would be sad if I stopped.

    • You’re not sounding “commercial.” You’re sounding realistic. :D Why not do what you love and get paid for it? I don’t know why people think if you’re in the creative arts, you have no business making money. It’s sad that writers are seen as greedy if they even mention wanting to make money at their craft. A teacher/doctor/engineer/etc who loves their job isn’t criticized by getting paid for it. They’re considered lucky because they get to do what they want and make a living doing it.

      But for some reason, if you’re an author, it’s taboo to want to make money at it. I think it’s because people have a hard time grasping the idea that creativity is work. No one can see how hard it is for an author to write a book. They don’t see the times we struggle with the plot or the characters to get them to work just right. They don’t see the editing process that is often grueling. They only see the product of that work, which is the book. Which is why I constantly have my family bugging me while I’m at the computer. They assume I’m just sitting down and doing nothing important. No matter how many times I tell them I’m working, they don’t believe me. But if I mow the yard or clean up a room, they leave me alone because (to them) I am finally working.

      I think authors have every right to be paid for their work. There’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, if we get paid for what we do, we’ll be able to do it even more.

      There is no wrong reason to write. :D

      • Yes! Authors should be paid. That’s one of the reason I never price my newer work at .99 like I used to. I did leave my old stuff at that price, but the only way I would price something at .99 anymore (except maybe a sale) is if it’s a short story. That’s like going to Belk and being offended because the skirt you want doesn’t cost a dollar. LOL

        • I don’t price my books at $0.99 anymore either. All of the old stuff stays there just because they’re already out there and I know some people continue to find me at that price point and with the free stories I do have. But all of my new books are $2.99. My co-authored books and ones with the publisher might be at $3.99 in the future because it’s not just me who receives royalties off of those books. I have to think about the other person, too.

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