Every time I scroll down my Twitterfeed, there’s a thousand and one authors and iAuthors claiming their work is going to be the next Harry Potter/Twilight/Fifty Shades/Gone Girl or whatever the hit of the year is. The truth is— 99% of these people will never see success as an author. You wanna know why? Because, yet again, everyone and their mother and the kitchen sink and Greg down the street and Jennifer from the coffee shop all want to be writers. It’s not just my Twitterfeed; it’s Facebook, that terrifying Real World, other blogs, everywhere. Everyone seems to wanna be the greatest writer eva, they want to be the next Shakespeare. That’s not a problem. Of course not. Writing is an awesome activity; it releases stress, you can change people, you get to see your own writing in a bookstore or on Amazon, because isn’t that just awesome!? The problem is: Why? Why do most people write?
- To become famous is the Number 1 reason. You want to be a household name. You want the megabucks. You want a mega-mansion in San Francisco with Donald Trump as your personal butler and 72 islands in the Pacific and a bank account to rival Kanye’s ego.
- You like the idea of being an author. Authors always seem like cool people, relaxing about with a martini or mocha latte in one hand and a pen in the other, casually writing in coffee shops and holidays at the Cayman Islands. Being an author seems like a fantasy job, not like a real job at all.
- Writing is fun. You’ve written some Life is Strange slash fic for Fanfiction.net or Wattpad, and now you think you’ve got what it takes to write something for the public to witness. Too bad you write stories in the style of “Chloe’s POV” and “Max’s POV” and think that’s all fine and dandy.
- You write because it’s just a part of who you are. You’ve written long before you knew you could make money, your parents always told you you could never make money. You write for pleasure and fun, the glory of seeing the words on the blank Word document or empty notebook come to life, and know without these words coming to life, you feel like you’re missing a part of yourself.
The other day, I came across a blog post by Vincent Mars which sparked my interest: “The Need to Write“. Usually it’s these sorts of posts, the random ones that catch my eye and hook me in; inspire what I need to write come the end of the month. In his piece, he wrote about how we shouldn’t write for fame or glory or anything dumb like that; all it does is take the fun out of writing. For the most part, we should be sticking to No. 4 in my dot point list as the reason to write: Write just for the sake of it. No. 3 is fine, too, because you’re still doing it for fun. Take writing seriously and it loses its appeal.
Back when I was studying creative writing at university (not completely useless; I also majored in the more useful and interesting journalism), it did improve my writing for the better, but I lost some of my appeal to write. In the obsessive literary vs. genre fiction debate, I grew weary of my writing. As a writer of genre fiction (psychological thrillers, new adult and YA), I felt out of place in units where they were talking about how what I wrote was useless, unimportant, meaningless. I made all efforts to have my writing “mean something”, but in the process, I became sick of writing, tired, bored. It became a task. Recently, while editing my manuscript, that love of writing returned, 1. because the perfect song came on and 2. I discovered I didn’t need a reason to write. My writing didn’t need some specific purpose only academia and the most literary of literary types could enjoy. Despite what my creative writing teachers told me, I could make meaning in genre fiction. I could mix the two. I could still have fun.
I suppose the point of all this is to question why you write. At university, I thought I could only write if it meant something very important, if I could try to change the world or something. Even when I lost my will to write “meaningful” stuff, I still wrote in other forms: blog posts, fanfiction, Tweets. But I discovered I didn’t need some arbitrary or, on the contrary, ridiculously ludicrous (making money and becoming ultra fahhh-moous) reason to write. I started writing again because I missed it too much. In Mars’s words:
The thought that I write not because I want to but because I have to comforts me. Knowing this, I can allow myself the freedom to write whatever I want and not worry that it is not good enough or not sellable or that people wouldn’t want to share it.
When writing, there’s still a nagging thought in the back of my head wondering if readers will like what I write, but I don’t write simply to send an all-important message or to become the next Jane Austen. I do hope that people will be left thinking and questioning what I’ve written—and that’s why I choose to write about complex anti-heroes and shades-of-grey types—but I’ve finally found the way to put the fun back into writing. Life is short. Don’t take yourself too seriously.