If you have moseyed on over to my little corner of the internet, odds are you are drawn to the written craft. Whether you’re an avid reader, a technical journalist, or a creative poet, you none the less gravitate towards written language. It is the way you choose to escape, reflect and communicate. I think it’s safe to say that all of us here have a passion for writing. But as a writer, I often find myself asking the age-old question. Why? Why do we write? Is it because we are insane? Is it due to the fact that we are told time and time anew how important it is to be able to write? Or is it because we simply aren’t good at anything else? No matter who you are as a writer, the question we get from everyone, ourselves included, always seems to be the same. Why write?
Although all of the theories above have some level of truth (yes you are insane, yes writing IS one of your most important assets, and yes if you are a writer it’s probably what your best at. Why else would you put yourself through this, right?), I think that I have arrived at a response that better answers this always present question. It addresses both the mechanics and practical implementation of words and the way it aligns with the personality most writers possess.
Here’s the thing about words. They are one of our most powerful resources. If used correctly, words have the ability to retell history, capture the present, and manipulate the future. They are the most poignant way in which we relate to other human beings, and they have the ability to tie us together across distance and time. Yet words are finite means. We cannot endlessly shape and form the language of any given moment to express exactly what we want to say. If the word doesn’t exist, we cannot make it exist. It is unlike visual art in that there are parameters, and as you can imagine a blank page is vastly different from a blank canvas.
This is where you come in. The writer. We are, after all, a unique breed. Writers are workers. We labor for hours and hours over minute details, striving for perfection that is unattainable. I find it fair to say, of myself at least, that I’m not so interested in getting people to talk, as I am in getting them to listen. That is the hard part after all, and us writers, we want a challenge. Words and the way they function give us that. It is a challenge that allows us to push boundaries and take risks. Money isn’t our driving factor, but change is. It’s all about grabbing someone’s attention for just long enough to alter their thinking, stretch their mind, even cause doubt.
Given my theory, I think we need to change the question. We all know why we write. We write because we are writers. The question instead needs to be, why words? Why is it this medium that gives form to our craft? Because it’s a challenge and when it’s met, it can have an influence whose power stands against all others.