Why Do You Write?

Have you ever wondered what compels writers to bring their pens to paper (or, in our modern world, their fingers to the keyboard)? This is how some of my favorite authors have explained their motivations to write:

(1) Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World (among other works), said: “Well, one has the urge, first of all, to order the facts one observes and to give meaning to life; and along with that goes the love of words for their own sake and a desire to manipulate them.” (via Paris Review)

(2) Lois Lowry, author of The Giver (among other novels), said: “I write books because I have always been fascinated by stories and language, and because I love thinking about what makes people tick. Writing a story… The Giver or any other… is simply an exploration of the nature of behavior: why people do what they do, how it affects others, how we change and grow, and what decisions we make along the way. Added to that, I love the process of finding the right rhythm of words, and then putting it all together, finally, to make a book.” (via Scholastic)

(3) Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse Five (among other books), said:

  • “I write books which express my disgust for people who find it easy and reasonable to kill.”  (Letter to Draft Board #I, Selective Service, Nov. 28, 1967). (via Kurt Vonnegut: Letters, edited by Dan Wakefield)
  • “Writing well is more than a way to make money. My father Kurt senior wrote like an angel, simply in order to be civilized, to make the lives of those around him more amusing and interesting.” (Letter to Alexander and Jackson Adams, Jan. 18, 1997). (via Kurt Vonnegut: Letters, edited by Dan Wakefield)

(4)  E. B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web (and other books), said: “I haven’t told why I wrote the book, but I haven’t told you why I sneeze, either. A book is a sneeze.” (via Letters of Note)

These authors write for a range of reasons, including the need to process the world around them, express themselves, satisfy an urge, or entertain others. I particularly like White’s analogy of writing to a sneeze. In other words, he wrote because he had to.

Two Lovely Berries by AM BlairI write stories for many reasons too.

In the beginning, when I wasn’t sure whether I would ever share my writing with anyone, I wrote fiction to process the real-life horror stories I see through my work as a public interest lawyer (resulting in Two Lovely Berries, a New Adult novel that addresses family violence).

Amelia Elkins ElkinsI also write to escape from life’s drudgery and stress. With Amelia Elkins Elkins, a Persuasion-inspired “courtroom romance,” I combined my interest in the law with my love of Jane Austen, whose novels have always comforted me during stressful times.

Now, with Anusha of Prospect Corner (a work-in-progress), a multicultural take on Anne of Green Gables, my reasons for writing have grown to include my desire to engage with my children. We’re writing this story together. There’s nothing more rewarding than hearing them laugh at the lines we’ve created as a team.

Our version of Anne is named Anusha. She’s a redheaded Sri Lankan American, like my twins, and she lives in a diverse community that is quite different from Anne’s racially homogeneous Avonlea. Each week, I write a chapter or two of the story, which they critique (they are quite opinionated little writers/editors). Then, I rewrite the chapters and write the next one based on their suggestions.

We’re just over 40,000 words into the story, about 5,000-10,000 words away from the end. I’m going to be sorry when it’s over, but, as I’ve explained to my kids, Anusha has a whole lifetime of adventures ahead of her. I feel a sneeze coming on… 😉




  1. How is it that E. B. White has such an ability to make me smile? He has long been, and probably will always be, one of my favorite authors. What a way of turning a phrase, what a fresh perspective, in the quote you added from him here.

  2. Fascinating about the writing and editing process with your girls and what a lovely thing to do. I write to help people, and I am so pleased every time I find I have.

    1. Writing Anusha with my girls has been so much fun. I’m learning a lot about them in the process.
      Thanks for sharing why you write!

  3. So cool to tell us why others write. I love it for calming me as I go through my thinking cap putting words to my thinking or feeling. It does not always translate accurately to others, but I know what I have meant for me as I write about my life!! Great post!!

    1. Thank you! We’re going back and forth right now about whether Manoj (our version of L.M. Montgomery’s Matthew) will meet the same fate as Matthew did. My girls really don’t want him to. I’m trying to come up with a compromise!

    1. Thank you! I try to follow their requests, but sometimes I just can’t make it work (we’ve had lots of discussions about whether something they’ve recommended is relevant to the story). I also like to surprise them from time to time. It helps that we’re loosely basing the story on Anne of Green Gables because that means we have a framework, a single vision. Right now, though, I’m in a bit of an argument with them about whether Manoj (our version of L. M. Montgomery’s Matthew) meets the same fate as Matthew did. I’m trying to come up with a compromise that moves the plot forward without breaking my little girls’ hearts. We’ll see.

        1. We read the original together. The idea to choose it came from my daughters’ confusion about how homogeneous Anne’s community was (which they realized when they saw the movie–the characters didn’t look the way they had pictured them). So, we borrowed the characters, updated them to reflect our multicultural community, and put them into new situations. We’ve been roughly following the major plot points of the original, but Anne of Green Gables isn’t really a plot-driven novel/series. So, there’s a lot of room for creativity. It’s a lot of fun.

    1. Thank you! It’s really fun to write this story with my kiddos. The youngest isn’t really involved (not yet), but she likes to hang around while we do it.

  4. I love the writing process with your twins on your current book.

    I write for many of the reasons expressed in the post. Mostly, I write to make sense of why people do what they do and to share those perceptions with others.

  5. I write because Fen the person only has one life.

    Fen the writer lives in many places and does interesting things and has love affairs with people he’ll never meet. Live in a houseboat on the river? (Precog in Peril) Why not? Build tiny houses for a living? (Half Moon House) Sure! Visit parallel universes with the aid of a G’Hoeste and a robot? (No Man’s Land) Absolutely. 🙂 (That last is from the WIP, which I’m currently wrapping up!)

    I feel sorry for people who don’t write. Their lives are so limited. 😉

    1. Your WIP sounds interesting! Good luck with it!
      Writing is definitely one way to have new experiences. Reading is another way (but without the control we have as the one with the pen).

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