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)
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.
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).
I 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… 😉