I call myself a writer, so I guess this is a good question to ask myself: why do I write?
Paraphrasing the teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes: Nothing is new under the sun; everything that there is to say has been said. So, why bother?
For the wealth? To become a rich and famous New York Times bestseller?
I mean, sure, if I do end up writing a bestseller you won’t see me complaining. But that isn’t the point of writing. It isn’t about being rich or successful. It isn’t about gaining recognition, it isn’t about marketability. “You’re never going to make a good impression on people until you stop thinking about what kind of an impression you’re going to make on people.” (C. S. Lewis)
Now to answer the question. Why do I write? In the words of Orson Scott Card, creator of the Ender’s Game franchise: “Our objective as storytellers and writers isn’t to make money—there are faster and easier ways of doing that. Our objective is to change people by putting our stories in their memory; to make the world better by bringing other people face to face with reality, or giving them a vision of hope, or whatever other form our truthtelling might take.”
And yes, it’s possible that every story that will ever be told has already been told. But the point of telling a story is not found only in the message: it’s a process. A journey. “Becoming the reader is the essence of becoming a writer.” (John O’Hara) “Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning; I wanted to know what I was going to say.” (Shannon O’Brien)
I write for two reasons. The first: I catch a glimpse of some ageless story. Of course the core of this story is nothing new, but the exact way the story plays out, and the exact way the characters interact with and grow with each other, contains its own beauty and uniqueness. I don’t know how the story will end, and I’m on a quest to find out. The second: I love this journey, this process, and I want to share it with others.
A couple more quotes from famous writers, and then I’ll be done for today. The first, from Ralph Waldo Emmerson, ties in with the lengthier quote from Orson Scott Card: “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”
In conclusion, why are stories written at all? Not only by me, but by anyone? Card and Emmerson both touch on this, but G. K. Chesterton really hits the nail on the head. “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.”
To provide insight and vision; to reveal truth that reality hides; to comfort, to cause discomfort and make people wrestle with darkness; to assure people that despite that darkness, despite the pain and suffering that you witness in fiction or in reality, dragons can be killed—
That is why I write.