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  • Donald J. Bingle, Writer on Demand

Why Writers Write

Writers write for all sorts of reasons, but the general public always seems to want to create a simple dichotomy between writers who write for money and writers who write for the love of writing. Of course, then they generally sneer at the former and laugh at the latter. As with most things, all is not as simple as it might appear to those who glibly gloss over subjects, rather than giving them any serious thought. Even with minimal thought (I like to think I'm efficient, not lazy), I've come up with a number of more subtle categorizations on the infinite 3D grid scale of why people write and thought I would pass them on to the world wide web for your consideration. (By the way, until the world wide web becomes sentient, I won't be capitalizing it, any more than I capitalize internet or toaster over.) People who love to write: There are some people who simply need to write constantly and in quantity. They hurt if they don't write and may or may not care if what they write is any good or is ever read by anyone else. They may find joy in the process of writing or, if not joy, perhaps therapy ... or at least a calming of their OCD impulses to create content. While this can manifest in a workaholic obsession in professional writers, it is, I believe, more often seen in amateur writers, for whom the process is pleasurable or cathartic or relaxing. Although professional wordsmiths may often match the wordcount of these lovers of writing, the professionals tend to match the lovers of writing word-for-word more out of work ethic, professional responsibility as to deadlines, and trying to make a go at a successful career as a full-time writer, than those who simply love to write. Full-time pros also, I believe, spend more time editing and re-writing and definitely have more prolonged periods in which the writing is "work"--arduous, wearying, and draining--than lovers of writing, many of whom seem simply content with writing down what their characters "tell" them to write. In some cases, finishing a novel or story isn't really the point and someone who simply loves to write may have multiple unfinished projects and not be concerned at all about the lack of completion, perhaps because completing a project means the end of writing the project and they love writing the project too much to ever want to do that. People who love to have written: For these people, the process of writing isn't what is pleasurable, it's the accomplishment of having written that floats their boat. Whether simply goal-oriented, competitive about their word count, or simply desirous of announcing (and perhaps gloating over) their accomplishment, these people get pleasure out of having done something that the world values in some way (even if not monetarily), although the process of getting to that goal may have been a long, hard slog, perhaps even painful. These are the type of people who, in another context, run marathons to say they have run a marathon, rather than having any particular joy in running itself. There may be importance in being able to say "I am a writer" or "I am an author" or "I wrote a novel." Page count (rather than the more professionally relevant and accurate word count yardstick) may be quite important, whether in total or over some arbitrary time period. Publication is not necessarily the point and such writers may have a trunk full of unpublished (even unpublishable) product. Someone who writes for "posterity" may be in this category or, if their ego is sufficiently large, they may be in one of the next categories. People who love to have their writing read: For these people, writing and having written are just means to an end. The writing may be fun at times and an irksome slog at other times, and they don't mind the adulation they may receive from friends and colleagues for having written, but what they really care about it being read. They crave an audience. Some may be satisfied if a special someone reads their words. Others may be content to produce a family memoir or local organization newsletter. Others may need a broad public audience, but they want an audience of some kind. They may seek to impress or receive a pat on the back or they may seek to influence public opinion (frequent writers of letters to the editor often fall into this category) or a broader audience, but they want their words to have some kind of impact. This may force such writers to be more concerned about the marketability or commercial quality of their writing as, at least traditionally, there have been gatekeepers who have some control over whether writing is actually read by the public--editors, agents, publishers and the like. These writers may also have various threshold goals that they believe help them ensure being read (submitting, perhaps, stories only to publications of a certain circulation or which pay "professional" rates, as these avenues are more likely to assure consistent readership). People who want to be acknowledged/famous: Closely related, perhaps, to the foregoing category, these people seek attention, fame, notoriety, and accolades and they see writing as their steppingstone to achieve such goal. Although writing, having written, and being read may be interim steps toward such goal, the key to satisfaction is not necessarily found in any of those preliminary items, but only in the acknowledgment that stems from them. Let's face it, there are plenty of people who are known for being writers that not that many people actually read. And some of these authors are not bothered by their lack of readership, provided that they still receive the accolades and/or money associated with being an author. People who write for money: These people may or may not enjoy all or some of the process of writing, they care only about having written because it impacts the bottom line. They care only about being read to the same extent. For them, writing is a paycheck, a job. It may be a more pleasant job than digging ditches or working direct sales and they may be adept at it because of talent, practice, or study, but writing is simply a way to earn a living. Copywriters, ghostwriters, technical editors, and the like may fall into this category (or those people may simply be doing such things to pay the bills while they pursue writing about which they have greater passion). Some--especially those who have never actually written much--may have pie-in-the-sky dreams about how much money can be made for little effort in the writing biz, while others see it simply as a serviceable job or a way to make a bit of extra money on the side without having to work a second full-time job. Of course, those with more grandiose dreams of writerly income may be severely disappointed, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of them out there--an they all have a screenplay they really want to show Steven Spielberg. Writers don't fall on a simple x/y graph of love vs. money. I'm sure you may have an axis or two to add to the multidimensional graph this article suggests. If so, please let me know in the comments. Me, I mostly write to be read. Sure, parts of the process can be fun and I like having written, but if it's never read or widely read, I feel unfulfilled. Money and fame would be nice, but I tamp down these feelings because they are unlikely outcomes. I'd love it if you would like to read more of my writing. I'd love it even more if I know I've been read--whether via a private comment or a posted review or skyrocketing sales due to word of mouth. As always, you can find more about me and my writing, including Frame Shop, my murder mystery set in a writers' group, at and can find my books and stories on Amazon, as well as on my website and other typical marketplaces. Aloha, Don

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