Why We Write

The Prompt: This week’s writing prompt is a bit different than usual. Instead of telling us a fictional tale, we’d like to read about the why behind your wondrous words. Describe in the comments—in under 500 words (and in this case, brevity is best)—the reason why you love writing.

You can also share with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, but be sure include the hashtag #WhyWeWrite. Your response could appear in the February 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest.

And for those of you who prefer more traditional prompts, never fear: We’ll be back next week with a thought-provoking query in our usual vein.


Need some inspiration? These famous authors have offered reasons why they write:

Gustave Flaubert
“Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living.”

Joan Didion
“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. …What is going on in these pictures in my mind?”

Don Delillo
“I write to find out how much I know. The act of writing for me is a concentrated form of thought. If I don’t enter that particular level of concentration, the chances are that certain ideas never reach any level of fruition.”

Lord Byron
“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”

Gloria Steinem
“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald
“You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say.”

Jennifer Egan
“When I’m writing, especially if it’s going well, I’m living in two different dimensions: This life I’m living now, which I enjoy very much, and this completely other world I’m inhabiting that no one else knows about.”

Michael Lewis
“There’s no hole inside of me to fill or anything like that, but once I started doing it, I couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything else for a living. I noticed very quickly that writing was the only way for me to lose track of the time.”

George Orwell
“Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood.”

You might also like:

268 thoughts on “Why We Write

  1. Ric

    I write to find out who I am.

    I write to find out how I really feel, and what I really think.

    I write to find out where I stand, and what I think of where others stand.

    I write to give meaning to my life, and I try to live to give meaning to what I write.

    I write to leave some legacy, that generations to follow may know somewhat of their heritage. To make a mark.

    I write to grow, to expand my own horizons and to share the feelings and experiences of my life—my failures and my successes.

    I write to keep my demons at bay—to capture their souls on paper, where they will never find me. To cast their fates with the stroke of a pen, and change them at my whim. To control them so they can’t control me. To transfer them from the darkest crevices of my imagination to a place where I can confront them on my terms, by my rules, in my own backyard.

    When you discover what you’d die for, you’ll discover what you live for. When you discover what you live for, you will have something to write about. When you have something to write about, you will be prepared to face life on your own terms.

    Ric Thayer
    11/6/2017

    1. Arie

      I am my characters and my characters are me, but we are very different versions of each other. I am not so brave as my detectives and elvish warriors, nor am I as witty and sly and beautiful as my cheerleaders and renegades. I write to become those versions of myself. I write to sink into those souls and skins and be reborn under a different, unfortunately fictional, sun. A sun that promises brighter fates and futures. I write to be reborn into my fictitious realms and universes, that hold adventure and magic and everything else that I lack.
      I am an angsty teen with extravagant ideas that I condense and place onto a page. I realize my poems are dark and painfully real. I realize my stories are wild and far-fetched and very unrealistic, but these are the things that develop my style. Reality is cold and unforgiving. Writing, however, is anything you want it to be. Writing is freedom, love, bravery. Writing is death, pain and sorrow. Whatever direction you want your stories to go in. Writing is a way of forming thoughts into deep, magical words that pierce the human psyche.
      I’ve always been obsessed with stories and how they are written and rewritten. I have considered myself a writer for a very long time. In elementary school, I was told by multiple teachers that “I have a gift”. Many of them thought I had been helped by my parents when we would receive writing assignments.
      I remember in third grade, we were writing short stories that were maybe a hundred words long. It was the first story I’d written. Mine was about an undercover superhero named “Dead-man” and his dog, Mutton Chop. I was so proud when my teacher asked me to display it for all the parents to see at the open house. By the next year, I was writing up to four hundred words and by the time I was “graduating” from my elementary school in sixth grade, I was already planning to write a novel.
      That first attempt at a novel, obviously, fizzled out quickly and I began leaning more towards poetry. Towards the end of seventh grade I ended up with one of my poems published in a book.
      Writing is a way of escape. To break away from the suffocating and dreary world around me, or sometimes, to forever encase my sorrows amongst many others in a notebook or journal or diary. Writing, for me, is like the emergency exit of living. I write because I know that even when nobody will listen to me and hear my voice, the paper will never reject my pen.
      When I write, my words can’t get twisted into something they are not. My words belong to me and, of course, anyone who wishes to read them. But they are still my words. I am an artist. I am a storyteller. I am a poet. I am an author. I am a writer.

  2. Lacharmoure

    Why I love writing?
    To some of us the world is a heavy weight. A place filled with the everyday realities and responsibilities, but also filled with new ideas at an overwhelming pace. Imagination is a gift but also a burden. As my mind constantly fills with ideas, stories and images I begin to feel increasingly weighted down. Writing is my relief. When I write it is like I have pulled the plug on an overfilling bath tub, allowed some of the stories and ideas to flow out. This lightens my load and makes room for the new and incoming ideas. I love writing because it is enlightening literally. I feel healthier, better, more balanced when I write. Some people go to the gym or jog to burn off their anxieties and free their mind. I write.
    I love writing because it is a release, a relief, and a way to keep my mind from over flowing.
    My father used to say, “There is a fine line between genius and crazy …” I am no genius, but I am also not crazy. Writing keeps many of us walking the line between the two.

  3. KillerRussianMan

    I love writing, because, it give me an escape. I live a boring life. I love writing because I get to create the world I have always wanted to live in. I love writing because I get to meet the friends I wish I had. I love Writing because, It gives me the Life I want to live for.

  4. Michelle F.

    Who said I love writing? Writing is the puss filled pimple that I just can’t stop picking. Writing is the mangled car wreck on the side of the road that I can’t stop staring at no matter how much I tell myself to look away. Writing is the drug that elates me and kills me at the same time. Writing is the labor pains of an excruciating birth of the child who I don’t know yet. Love is not the word I would use to describe writing. Yearn. I yearn to write not because I love writing, but because I love what comes from writing. Sometimes the result is a beautiful masterpiece and sometimes it is a nasty mess, but whatever form the writing results in, the result is a piece of me. A true honest piece of me that I never knew existed until I wrote it.

  5. JosephFazzone

    I bob and weave, tuck, and roleplay, divulge and then deny, make mountains out of molehills, and then crush them under the boot of an ant; an infantry ant, and no, not a child. I make no sense and then turn it into a crystallized epiphany that casts the light on the shadow and turn it into an easily palatable idea.

    Slow the roll.

    I write. That is what I do.

    I then compose lengthy verses, intended not only to entertain, but challenge myself, in my best capacity, to see how long or how far I can even go to write a grammatically correct sentence that still somehow maintains some semblance meaning despite its lengthy babble.

    Sometimes less is more. That is why I write, and now I will slip into a seamless transition where I paint the story of a young disheartened lad whose life lay directly in the path of melancholy.

    Break time from the menial job I managed to eke just days before being evicted from my former childhood home. Yep, things sure took a turn for the worst. I sat at the booth eating without tasting, staring into nothing, thinking of nothing, and the nothing I had become.

    “Through this sick diseased world filled with sadness, greed, war, death, and hatred, we have at last found our salvation. It is a mirage.”

    My eyes blinked severely times as my unsteady hand scribbled out the words before awareness has kicked into motion.

    I wrote that. I did it. That was all me. It came from somewhere inside, a deep resigned morose sigh, but the depths of which I never ventured before.

    My jaw agape as I beheld the words before me. The impact of their meaning fell upon me as the imagination took flight. Every cell was focused and reading the words over and over. The melancholy, the resignation, and then vision of what I wrote appeared. I reeled, I saw, the trek through the lonely mountains, I smelled the pine air, and tasted the dust. I felt the weary travel, I felt the hope, and I knew the disappointment the traveler felt when he reached the apex only to find the same trail and nothing more than the journey before him.

    What I had wrote hit me hard. It crystallized the pain I was feeling, and more so the bitterness and anger in a matter that I was not even aware I was feeling. I reeled because the veil had lifted, and suddenly I saw a realm of possibility. I immersed myself into exploring that feeling and became a child again. I found an avenue to play in, and what’s more, I could do it all the time!

    Ecstatic, overjoyed, and filled with the youthful vigor of a child with a brand-new toy. I wrote two more poems on that break, and have never looked back. I have never found a path towards writing to express all the feelings that are flying around in my brain. I found my release, and haven’t looked back since.

  6. RafTriesToWrite

    I searched deep and hard inside myself for my “why” and I’ve come up with this.


    I was never much of a talker, nor was I a good one. People might think I’m a mute because I rarely talk, it’s only because I have nothing to say. In my life up until now, I was never around people who I can freely talk about something that I liked or someone whom I shared interests with. I had those before, when I was in grade school. But life happened, so it was cut short.

    After grade school, I was becoming more and more quiet than I was before, I was becoming more shy, more introverted in a way. I had classmates, yeah, but they’re more like acquaintances to me, I could never really consider them as friends. Friends don’t just cut off relationships with you just because you’re irrelevant to them now and just pop up later when they need something from you. That’s not my definition of a “friend”.

    So after high school, I got more quiet – I don’t know if it’s even possible – and I was acting out because of puberty.

    It’s right there when I realized that I was never going get good at speaking to people or interacting with them verbally. But I had all these feelings that I wanted to let out inside me, all cooped up from when grade school started. So what did I do?

    I wrote them. Then I realized that, writing was a good way to express my feelings, my thoughts, my dreams, my imagination, my hopes, my…self. I thought I started writing because it was all just a phase, but it’s not. Writing helped me cope with life, it let me channel my emotions through my works, it helped me become more…ME.

    So maybe that’s my “why”.

  7. twarren29

    I suppose I write because, like reading, it allows me to be in a world separate from the world I live in. It allows me to be childish, when I cannot be so in this real world. It feels to me like that wild imagination I had in my younger years hasn’t left me, but I have left it, until I am writing…freely…creatively.

  8. Amyithist

    I’ve always enjoyed writing. Ever since I was a little girl, I made up stories. Characters playing out in my head, eloquent and strong…nothing like me. I don’t write for anyone but myself; though, like most writers, praise is always sopped up by my docile ego. No matter how much I try to keep it in check, it’s always there, sifting between the words I write, hoping someone finds me as witty or as charming as I hope to be. Then again, there is always that part of me that is infuriatingly dissatisfied with everything I write. That perfectionist whispering in the back of my mind, “This isn’t good enough.” We all know that part of ourselves very well; but especially when you’re a writer. I write because I love it. I love it with every touch of my pen, every creative flick of my wrist. I love bringing people into my head and showing them the horrors that lie beneath the surface. If I make someone think then I’ve done my job well. If I change someone’s perspective…well, that was completely by accident. I write because I am a writer. It’s just what I am. Lucky me!

  9. frankd1100

    I don’t love to write. I find it an agonizing process, hard work that draws and draws and draws me back to find the better word, a sentence structure that sounds less contrived, a finished piece that presents some truth of myself to the ether space. On that rare occurrence when my writing has flowed smoothly, I have not been able to reconstruct the methodology for the purpose of a template to be used over and again. It is simply a serendipitous alignment of the stars, my soul and my brain that places me in the way of the right collection of words.

    That being said, I have experienced enlightened creativity but less than ten times in 69 years of life. The first time, the one that stands out so prominently, (that I feel a sliver of joy akin to what an authentic author or artist feels for their creations whenever I think of it), happened in Mr. Walsh’s 8th grade English class. A weekend homework assignment was to write a science fiction story. I remember the day being sunny and bright, which normally would have pulled me outdoors, but on this day, I sat in my room and worked on the assignment. I wrote of a world in which so much work was done by machines that humans no longer needed a musculature. Legs had become weak and arms were useful only to extend one’s hands so fingers could reach the buttons that controlled the functions of living. The main Olympic event was thumb wrestling.

    Much to my surprise, Mr. Walsh read the story to every class he taught. He praised my work to the extent that I was pleased, but at the same time deeply embarrassed, unaccustomed as I was to praise for academic success.

    Every time I write something, I try for that ease, that sense of creative flow. It is my incentive to write, the source of energy and motivation to risk it again.

    So, I don’t like the process. But like an alcoholic friend of mine once said, “I don’t like the taste so much, but I crave that funny feeling.”

    1. twarren29

      I can appreicate the last sentence here, as my father is an alcoholic (recovering, 15 years). I feel the same way about writing. I can say the words “I love writing” to someone, but what they won’t understand, (unless they, too, are a writer) is that the process can be infuriating, but the high the finished product gives you is genuinely the part you “love”.

    2. Kerry Charlton

      Frank, this is one eye-opening essay on how I write,not you. Chore certainly comes to mind. Really is an unnatural thing for me to do and I never have any idea if I hit a mark or not.

      For I never wrote a piece of fiction ever. Boy was it scary posting my first story on Writer’s digest. Nervous as you know. Second story same way and then it was critiqued. Basically they said to take a course in writing, which I did do.

      This is not easy ever except if I go into automatic and that has happened rarely. So move over in the boat, I need all the help I can get. Now on your essay, it is written with clarity, a tinge of humor and a willingness to lay all your cards on a table.

      Don’t ever let anyone say you don’t have a soul for writing and if you think you are too old for this, I graduated from highschool the same year you did from first grade.

  10. splandorf

    As a socially awkward high-schooler, I fell in love with writing when an entire English class laughed at my whimsical use of five, disparate spelling words in the same sentence, a feat I could never accomplish at a conversational pace. Suddenly, I was more witty than weird, at least enough to divert some attention from my coke bottle glasses, mullet and Hawaiian shirt with bright yellow Velcro in place of the buttons. After that, I discovered angst ridden poetry as a way to vent the emotional casualties of still being socially clueless even if I was witty. I knew the world would read it one day and realize what a great and influential intellect I was. Now it reminds me what a great and influential intellect I wasn’t. All because those words are still there to read, to transcend the time that’s passed and to allow me to meditate on them again. Writing helps me understand myself and share it with others who grew up thinking wits would make a bigger difference, when In the end, it was actually the Velcro, Hawaiian shirt.

  11. ReathaThomasOakley

    The writer

    I take
    letters arranged
    in recognizable ways,
    infuse them with
    thoughts,
    passions,
    apologies.
    Truths? Perhaps.

    I bring joy,
    comfort,
    unease and guilt.

    I face
    false praise,
    scorn,
    ridicule,
    guns and tanks.

    I swallow
    pride and hemlock
    with a smile.

    I am the voice crying in the wilderness,
    Prepare ye the way.

    I am a writer.
    I write because
    I must.

  12. C. M. Gatewood

    I write because I am a writer. I did not become a writer, though it is common enough to hear people say that such and such became a writer when something special happened, that is not how it is for me. I was born a writer.

    Writing is the constant that gives my life a sense of purpose, even when life itself becomes a jumble of incomprehensible circumstances. When I am striped of all my certainties, when nothing makes sense anymore and the world is spinning in the wrong direction, I know this one thing: I am, at the very core of my being, a writer.

    Writing gives me a voice when society deems me too young, too inexperienced, (too) woman and (too) foreign to let me speak, or to bother hearing my words. Even if nobody will ever read the words and hear my voice, writing sets me free, gives me hope and purpose, because perhaps somebody will.
    Somewhat paradoxically, I write to be understood and I am terrified that someone might actually understand. That they might learn me, know me. But even more terrifying is the prospect that nobody ever will. Such is the blessing and the curse of writers, but I cannot resist the call, the compulsion to pick up my pen, to let the words bleed my thoughts and my heart and my inner worlds onto the pristine pages on my desk. I hear Calliope whispering in my ear and I cannot deny her: “Write” she urges. “Write and I will set you free. I will show you the wanders and I will show you the horrors and I will take you places nobody has ever seen before- and all you have to do is write.” No matter how much I try, the pull to write is always stronger, and so I listen to her and I write.

    Last but not least, I write because one day I will lie on my dying bed and I am scared of lying there, surrounded by the ghosts of past ideas- breathtakingly flowed, beautiful, burning with the desire to grow, to be set free, to be. I am terrified of their angry eyes cast upon me, accusing me for caging them, for killing them before they had a chance to bloom.

    I know I could not stand to look back on all that could have been, if only I had had the courage to write. And so I write. For me, for the world, and for the latent potential that waits to become.

  13. Yaa Asantewaa Faraji

    I have a nasty habit of closing myself off from the world the minute it opposes me. I get defensive and reshape my true friends as enemies. I ignore telephone calls from family. I become immobile, and the silence that I surround myself in becomes deafening.

    But my mind is racing.

    It never quiets; it revs on a continuous thought-process of doubt, and fear, and worry and hope. It thinks about my future self, and who I might have been in the past. It makes stories of who I am now, and postulates who I want to be. And then, when I think I’ve finally reached the apex of infinite silence in this infinite world, my mind starts thinking about the very world itself: my place in it, our place in the world, the world’s place in the universe…

    Writing seems to be the only thing that quiets my mind; if my mind was the engine, then writing would be the pedal. It’s an ironic dichotomy, that the only way to silence my mind is to actively let it be released. With a pen and a piece of paper, actively thinking about my thoughts. Affirming their development. I guess, for me, writing is a way to actively release… everything.

    Release the doubt.
    Release the frustration.
    Release the hope.
    Release the failure.
    Release the excitement.
    and the pain
    and the confusion
    and the imagination
    and the idea of release altogether.

    With writing, I get to just live, outside of this body; outside of definition. I can just be myself, and think, and release and connect with everything around me, whether subconsciously aware or not.

    It’s a yogic participation for me. I don’t have the time to meditate, so instead, I write. In a sense, writing is my meditation. It’s my defense against my defense when I feel like the world is closing itself from me. When my world gets chaotic, I’m able to rewrite its chaos (or my own) and mold it into my own perspective. I can breathe through the chaos with writing, and slow everything down. This world can make you anxious from time to time, and everyone needs something to tie them back to their purpose and place in it. Everyone needs a safe-haven — writing just happened to be mine.

  14. Wendy Kennar

    Second grade. That’s when I started writing. Ms. Jones. She was the teacher who told me I could write. She made me a “book” — yellow construction paper cover, filled with the “good” paper, the white paper with blue lines that was only usually used for final drafts. She told me to write down my stories in this book.

    My first story was a “borrowed” re-telling of a Sesame Street skit about a greedy dog who lost his bone when he sees his own reflection in a pond.

    I don’t know why I started writing then, why I felt drawn to put words on the page. Except that I knew I could. Even at that young age, I already had all the tools I needed. I knew all 26 letters of the alphabet. And that’s all it takes to write.

    I began writing because I was shy. I didn’t always feel confident in verbally expressing my thoughts and feelings. I couldn’t always think of what I wanted to say in the moment. I needed time to ponder and gather my thoughts. I couldn’t always speak my thoughts and feelings, but I could write them. I could let the situation “simmer,” and then while I was doing other things, mundane things like brushing my teeth, something would come to me. An idea, which led to a sentence, which led to a paragraph, which led to a personal essay.

    Writing, at least pre-internet, was less confrontational than speaking. I might fumble when trying to explain why I don’t allow my nine-year-old son to play with toy guns. But I could write it. Clearly and articulately, I could explain why our family had made that decision.

    Writing was a way for me to process what I saw and observed and felt about being an elementary school teacher. For twelve years, I taught elementary school (kindergarten, fourth, and fifth grades). Four years ago, at the advice of my rheumatologist, I retired due to an invisible disability. I live with an autoimmune disease, and the daily fatigue and high levels of pain I experience made it impossible to keep up with demands and stresses of teaching.

    So now I write as another way of educating. I no longer begin each day, greeting my students on the playground with a heartfelt, “Morning loves!” But I can write about my loves — my nine-year-old son, my former students. I can write to educate others about invisible disabilities such as mine.

    I write, because I have to. I no longer teach in a classroom. I teach through my personal essays instead.

  15. C.T. Ludgate

    I write to silence the voices in my head.

    It sounds prosaically simple if a little mad. It’s the summarized version of my reasoning – the one I offer people who aren’t really interested but feel obligated to ask.

    That’s not you, though, is it?

    I dream in colour. I dream about the fact that I’m dreaming. Knowing I’m in a dream, however, doesn’t dissipate the wild and wondrous things that occur as I sleep. The world I’ve created in my partially conscious mind grows and develops without my interference.

    I feel that my dream worlds exist in some dimension or reality that is out of my reach when I’m awake. To ignore that they are corporal is an indignity.

    Though I know I’ll never touch those people or walk among those places with my earthly body, it’s my duty to bring them to the light so that I can share them with all.

    I do this without abandon, for I know that a day will come when the voices stop talking and I will lay down my pen for the last time.

    1. twarren29

      You sound like a lucid dreamer. I, too, have dreams where I am fully aware that I am dreaming (and they’re always in color.) All 5 senses are active in these dreams. Is this what it’s like for you? Did you have a dream journal at one point in your life? I did, but it was hard for me to write in it as my dreams were things I never wanted even myself to see, let alone someone to read. I love your post.

COMMENT