Why I Write

I have always found that there is nothing more boring than a writer who writes about writing.  I’m not sure why  – I think I’ve just always found something slightly irritating in the assumption that someone who reads my fiction is going to be interested in the process behind the story.  When I read a novel, I read it for the story alone.  If it’s a good book, I forget that somebody has actually made it all up.  To find out more about the process only reminds me of that.

Perhaps it is also because there is something slightly naval gazing about the examination of the imperative to write, as if it is something mysterious, something God given, some gift, or purpose, that only a certain breed of person has – the writer, the author, who somehow sees things differently for the rest of us.

I don’t believe this.  I think there is a writer in all of us.  Not a good writer, necessarily, not someone who has made the study of
the meaning and patterns of language a large part of their life. What I mean is that the need to communicate is the basis of all humanity. It doesn’t always manifest itself in words, of course. We communicate in pictures, through music, and mathematics, although I’m sure that this blog expressed in equations would only be slightly more interesting than a writer who writes about writing.

Why do I write? It may be because my parents wanted me to – and I was a fairly placid child – happy to do anything to keep everyone happy. It may be because I won a writing competition when I was five with a small masterpiece entitled the sun, moon and stars (with a slightly macabre illustration of an astronaut being exploded by the sun). It might be because I gave up my job to do it, and so was bloody well going to do it, or else.

But now that I am ‘a writer’, and have discovered the disappointing lack of mortgage settling advances and movie deals, have battled with the isolation of working from home, the intensity of switching constantly from contemplative, imaginary worlds to the
very real, immediate, and practical demands of family and work, why do I still want to do it?

I suspect, unfortunately, that the truth is very much less about me, and very much more about the human condition, the need to escape from the isolation of our boxes of skin, and tell people how the world looks to us.  Every expression we make, from the masterpiece in the national gallery, to the tv show you watched last night, to the noise, gesture or ugly face made by the hungry baby – is an effort to tell others something about our own subjective experience of the world.

My brother and self appointed publicist recently wanted to put a heading on my website.  Writer, Gardener, Mother.  I was horrified.  My husband doesn’t put R&D Director, father, on his businesscard, I said.  But then maybe he should.  Perhaps writers,
like everyone else, need to remember that their identities do not come solely from their occupation.  Recently, when I asked my five year old daughter what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said ‘I’m going to be a doctor and a mummy and a cyclist and a reader.”  And why not?

I write as a way of exploring the human condition, the strange twisting logic of cause and effect.  I write to tell others how I feel about things, and why.  I write to escape from my skin, to reach out to the living world around me, to become something other than the limits of myself.   I write because I believe that I should, because I believe that we all should.  Because the drive to communicate is not just an imperative, but a duty.

But I am not a writer.   I am a writer and a mother and a gardener and a teacher and a cook and a cleaner and a reader and many other things.  In other words, I am a person who writes.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this post