Simple enough question, but I’m guessing there will be wildly different answers.
What is the ultimate goal of your writing? To pass the time? To find fame and fortune? To change the world? To leave something behind? So scholars in the future can debate the meaning behind your work? To scratch an itch?
What end result do you have in mind when you put pen to paper (or fingers to laptop)?
Sam Hranac says
To leave something behind? To scratch an itch?
Something like that – and a lot like others have said. There are stories and people in my head and they want to come out.
What’s the ultimate goal of my writing? To make my reader miss her bus.
If I can manage to pull her that far into the world I created, I will be well pleased indeed.
Mary Paddock says
I write because I have something to say or a story to tell. I want to do it well. I want to get paid money for doing it.
I’ve been telling stories on paper since I was a third grader, when the little boy next to me told me my picture of a horse looked like a lizard. I kicked him in the shins and wrote a caption underneath the picture explaining why the horse looked the way it did (it involved magic. Some things never change). Before I knew it, all my pictures had captions and then all my captions turned into sentences with pictures. And then it was paragraphs and no pictures.
It’s an innate impulse at this stage and I’d write even if I thought there was no chance of being published. I’d probably be like one of those little old ladies who crochet scarves and sweaters for all her relatives and when she runs out of relatives, she starts crocheting booties for her cats. For some of us,the drive to create goes on past the point of sensibility.
However, given my druthers, I’d rather write for real people. My cats are terrible critics.
Sophie W. says
I just like writing books. I would write even if there was zero chance of getting published. It’s fun.
We’ll see if this attitude lasts into my twenties. Or thirties.
Well, the truth is I’m innocent. But into my head pops these characters and they are VERY bossy.
I would have chosen to be a dancer,BUT NO!
The characters go chitty-chatty-chitty-chatty and have all these stories they need me to write.
Man oh man, I take dictation until I need a neck rub and a glass of
juice (or something).
Tsk tsk tsk.
(oh, yeah, and for therapy and because I have to, too.)
Hi, new reader chiming in. ^_^
Like a lot of the previous commenters, I write because in no small part I feel like I have to. I was stressing out once about not getting writing work done, and a friend, trying to help, told me “Y’know, you don’t have to write every day.”
Which strikes me rather like telling me “Y’know, you don’t have to breathe.”
I love the entire process of telling a story–and of shaping it from start to finish until it’s ready to be shared with someone. I too feel very testy and stressed if I don’t feel like I’m making progress on this on a daily basis.
Now, part of that stress is tied up in the goal part of this question–which is to say, I want to write novels that people will buy and enjoy. I have no illusions that it’ll bring me fame and fortune, especially since I’m writing SF/F and the likelihood of fame and fortune from that is pretty darned small. 😉
But I’d be happy with “moderately well known” and “comfortably well off”, perhaps. Enough that I could write as a primary profession, and spend more time outside, even if it’s with my laptop, banging on a novel.
Marissa Scott says
I choose to write because I want to share my stories with others, hopefully entertaining them in the process. For me, it’s as simple as that. 🙂
Laurel Amberdine says
Because I want to make some lovely agent with fabulous taste wealthy?
No, no, wait. Not the suck up answer. Hang on.
Honestly, though I fear this sounds completely dweebish and arrogant… I have seen, experienced, and learned some things I think are wonderful and unique enough that I’d like to share them.
But lecturing about philosophy, religion, and physics is no fun, and doesn’t work anyway.
My only hope is through art, and being a voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy, I think that medium is best for what I’d like to accomplish.
Don’t know if I’ll ever manage to blow some reader’s head open with the wonder of the universe, but it’s worth trying. And at the least, when I can make someone happy and give them an entertaining pastime I’m satisfied.
Josephine Damian says
To entertain. Bestsellerdom or bust. Make big bucks. Get a film deal for my novel, write the screenplay myself so that one day I can stand at a podium and say, “First, I’d like to thank the academy for voting for me, and next, I’d like to thank my agent…..”
I suppose I don’t absolutely have to write. I don’t absolutely have to eat, either. But people who choose not to eat are called “anorexic.” I don’t know what the equivalent word for choosing not to write would be, but I know that when I do it, something in my soul starves to death.
Writers go around with bad hair from scratching their heads and saggy butts from sitting at their desk all day,
so WHO ARE those pretty people who stand in for the (real) writers for their book jacket pictures and where can I hire one, ???
and looking in the mirror, SOON! (YIKES!)
(iamjustposing, acting ,inthe closet…
-hopeful look that you
will believe my sorry story-
saggy butt and all,
I write because I have to — I don’t really know why — I’ve always been working on one thing or another. I love it and it’s a compulsion.
And given I’m compelled to write, I want to do it as well as I’m able, and create something other people will enjoy.
I write because I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. From the time I was old enough to read, it’s what I’ve loved more than anything else. I can’t explain beyond that. I can explain the reasons that I work so hard to master the craft versus just writing without care for that sort of thing, and I can explain why I want to publish the things I write. But the reason I love to write isn’t something I can put into words so easily.
Regarding the “I have to write” debate…. I’ve got to say that I never understood people who say that. Not saying that they don’t “have” to, just saying that I don’t understand it. I mean, writing well is hard. I love the art of improving my craft, but it takes effort. Much as I like to write, I also like to sleep, but I force myself to get up early and stay up late so I can get my writing done. Being a stay-at-home mom, I sometimes even spend money I could definitely find other uses for to pay a babysitter to watch my kids while I go out and get some writing done. Someone said that for them, writing is easier than not writing, and I’m not saying that’s not true for them, but I really don’t get that. Not writing is much easier for me. But I’m happier when I’m writing every day, even though finding that time to write is sometimes a challenge. So I do it.
I want to hold in my hands a book I created.
To tell a darn good story.
Because I have all these stories in my head, and it would be a pity to let them go to waste.
And also for most of the reasons everybody already stated. It is therapy, and it is necessary, it is what I am, it is, essentially, a way of life.
To find a way to stop.
but on with the story!!
there’s gotta be a good reason somewhere
or maybe even a really bad one
(running away to hide anonymously in Nathan’s blog from men in white jackets?)
I write because I love to write, or course. But I do fantasize about middle schoolers reading my books, loving them, recommending them to others. If a handful of kids who usually hate to read make it through my entire book, I will have made pretty heavy impact.
Mark Terry says
Reading these comments confirms what I’ve often thought, that the majority of aspiring novelists have some sort of ill-defined obsessive-compulsive disorder.
In my case, OCD aside, I make a living as a freelance writer. The majority of that writing is writing market research reports about the clinical laboratory business. It pays well, I set my own hours, I’m having fun. But it’s work.
Writing novels is a lot more fun. Although I make good money writing business reports, it’s finite, whereas, at least in theory, having a hot novel can make you rich (in theory).
So, from a practical point of view, I’d like to see a larger portion of my freelance writing income derive from the things I most like to write.
From the philosophical POV, and disregarding the potential diagnosis of some free-floating form of OCD, I want to write novels because it’s fun to write novels. I mean, I just like to make shit up. It’d be nice to get paid for it.
My end goal is to get the story on paper (or harddrive) and perfect it. The stories are always there in my head, I want to remember them in my old age so I write them down.
If I get published and am able to share my work and the worlds I create with more than just my friends and family that will be wonderful, but I don’t write for the mass public or to follow a trend or because I intend to be the next Terry Pratchett or Orson Scott Card.
And, like others have said, at some point the writing takes over. I don’t have a choice in the matter. The characters take over, they want a voice, they want to live.
I enjoy writing. I like thinking of characters and plots, weaving them all together, creating worlds and rules. I like playing with words.
Of course, I notice that I only say that I enjoy writing when I’m not actually writing. (“I hate writing. I love having written.”)
My goal? To finish my stories, to be glad with them, and yes, eventually, to get published (though I imagine this being years off, if ever). It’d be nice if they were somewhat successful, but that’s more because I like validation than because I want the money/to be famous/etc.
Sneak Thief says
To make a buck or two.
It’s that simple.
I agree (with above) — I write because this will be one of my only chances (with small children at home) — and I want to make some money. Doesn’t need to be a ton — just a nice, little, supplemental income doing something I truly enjoy. Is that too much to ask? 🙂
Okay this is gonna sound weird and I don’t want to sound rude but I never understood the “to write something I’d enjoy reading”
I enjoy reading horror, but I can’t write it. I enjoy reading about politics but to write in depth about it sounds boring.
I write to tell a certain story and to maybe make sense of things but the main reason I write is to entertain someone.
I come from a culture where stories are traditionally passed down by word of mouth. Not enough of my people put their words down on paper.
I write because I can. I write humor and satire because otherwise the stories that need telling become too sad.
Plus I like making folks laugh.
My goal is to be published so some kid on the rez might someday read the tale and say,”hey, I can do that.”
With both my fiction and non-fiction, I write because I can’t stop myself! I also write to make people think, laugh, respond, react; to create excitement, frustration or anger even. Fame and fortune wouldn’t be bad either.
That one wonderful day Spencer and Heidi will allow me to write their official biographies….
But really, I want a lot of things. For people to pluck my book off the shelf, going, “This looks good.” To hold the book in my hands and fan the pages to get that lovely book smell. For a kid to stay up reading it, long after she’s supposed to be asleep…and, someday, to make the NYT bestseller list. I wouldn’t complain if Oprah called me up to chit chat, either.
To tell a story.
so i can go out similieing
Other Lisa says
I love to write, even when I hate it. I’d call it a compulsion. I definitely get cranky when I go a long time without a project.
I write as a way to make sense of the world, and then to change it.
I want to sell what I write and have a real, sustainable career.
so I can marry Ulysses!
because I have to!
Shannon Yarbrough says
To be read.
Writer Babs says
Well, right now I’m at the “finish something” stage, but I think in the end, I would like to be able to say I make my living writing stories, because that’s what I love to do.
I know that most authors can’t make money as a full time writer, but hey, I can dream.
Is it wrong to say I write because I want to be paid? It must be, because I’m posting this under Anon.
And also, selfishly, sometimes I read other people’s books and they are such crap, I think, dear heaven, I know I can do better than that.
Loquacious Me says
I want to let others enjoy the places and people that live inside my head as much as I do.
Getting paid would be nice too, but really it’s more of an added bonus.
To have a fabulous lunch with my publisher…what else is there?
Mmm… Good question, Nathan.
I write, really, because I can’t do anything else. It’s like a creative compulsion. If I go a week without writing and I feel OK, then I know I’ve been writing my head off and should take a longer break… because most of the time, I go crazy without putting finger to keyboard.
But the great thing about writing is that it also lets me use my competitive, business side. I want to make it big. I plan on making it big.
That’s why I write.
When people ask me that I usually tell them “Imagine that you have a $10,000 gift certificate. Suppose you don’t get around to use it so it gets expired. Imagine how that would make you feel. This should give you some idea about how I’d feel if I didn’t find time to write.”
There’s a reason why so many people on this thread say something along these lines. If you know you have it in you, you can’t ignore it. You HAVE to write. Everything else is secondary.
to eventually give someone the same feeling i got when i first read ‘a moveable feast.’ listening to music, viewing paintings, reading books… i think one owes a debt for those experiences.
oh and nathan – thanks for the reply re: novellas. hmmm… al jefferson, writing career, al jefferson, writing career… would you take telfair instead?
To see if I can create people and a world as complex and believable as this one. And it’s fun!
I want to write books that people stay up till 4am reading,just to read one more and then one more chapter. I want to take them to another world.
A little bit of income wouldn’t hurt either.
Carol Burge says
My goal is simple. I have a favorite book that I first read when I was a teenager (some thirty years ago).
This book has stayed with me. I’ve re-read it hundreds of times and I’ve bought numerous copies throughout the years.
This is the book that inspired me to write all these years later. I just love it. I love the characters, the plot, everything about it. And that’s where your question comes in.
If I could have one person, just one person, feel this way about my book, I’d be happy, and I’d be satisfied.
Of course I’d love to hit the NY Times Bestseller list, too. 🙂
Hey, I can dream, can’t I?
My mystery writing teacher always used to say, “I hate writing, but I love having written.”
I can’t wait to someday hold the finished product in my hand. And to see some kid on the metro holding it.
Elissa M says
Stories constantly float around in my head. I have to write them down. In that sense, there is no goal. Yet, I now have the urge to share my stories and characters, so the goal is to write a novel engaging enough to induce a publisher to publish and readers to read. The hope is there will be enough readers to justify publication of further novels. Still if the goal is not met, the writing will continue because the stories will keep coming.
Emily Ryan-Davis says
I probably have many reasons that vary from day to day, but the constant motivation is a little extra money and a little extra popularity.
I’m shallow. 🙂
Ooh 95 comments already. Looks like I’m coming into this You Tell Me a bit late, but that being said…
my goal? Ultimately to be able to support myself through writing but really I’d be happy just being able to walk into a B&N or Borders and see my books shelved.
Wow, great responses here. I feel as if we’re in a salon – I’d really love to meet all of you and keep discussing… I write because I am compelled to do so. The medical term is hypergraphia and simply, for me, a switch turned on not too long ago and so I write. And if I miss my pre-dawn session, I become irritable, almost like withdrawal from an addiction.
My goal as a writer? To make you, the reader, weep when my characters despair; cry when they are insanely happy; and to walk away from my story understanding a little bit more of the world around you and, perhaps, yourself. Peace…
Bob Jones says
To get better.
I’m fascinated – what was the book?
For me, the formative book was BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN by Glendon Swarthout. ‘In that place the wind prevailed…’ If I could ever write a book that moved me as much as his, I’d die happy. Peace…
midnight oil says
I have these worlds, people, and stories deep in my soul. I need/ have to exercise these things. I don’t have to write them to exercise them, but what a waste that would be.
If I ever publish, I do hope to reach at least one other soul.