Well, what to say here? This is an article I wrote back in 1995 for no other reason than that it was the very first piece of writing I ever had published (3rd prize in a competition for which I was awarded the princely sum of £20). I’ve tidied it up a bit since then, but the text essentially remains the same …
Why Write? An interesting question you might agree, but one with a multitude of answers. The same question could well be asked of those who follow other creative pursuits. What compelled Van Gogh or Gaugin to paint, despite their sufferings, or Beethoven to compose even though he was profoundly deaf? Or, returning to my original question, the Bronte sisters to write when publication seemed an impossible dream? This passionate need for self-expression is in every writer who yearns to achieve authorship as their career. Many of course believe writing to be an easy job with huge financial rewards at the end of it; if money is your sole motivation then you are probably not a born writer. This isn’t to say money should not be a consideration, but its value to many writers is the freedom it allows them to work at what they most enjoy, in their own time and at their own pace. Then, a writer’s intention may merely be to entertain, which is I believe to be an excellent reason for writing; any occupation that brings light relief and enjoyment to so many people is an admirable one. To bring enjoyment to even one person can be a source of profound satisfaction:
“One of my greatest rewards came a year or two ago, mailed to me care of my publishers – an envelope with a Glasgow postmark containing a scrap of paper on which was written very simply, ‘thank you for all the enjoyment your books have given me’. It bore no address and no signature, and accompanying it was a Scottish pound note. I have never parted with either. That kindly gesture has been kept as a talisman ever since. My only regret is that I have never been able to thank that unknown reader.”
Rona Randell, (authoress)
If, in your own writing, you are fortunate enough to experience such a moment you may well be well on your way to answering the above question. For many though the urge to write is born out of circumstance. One important thing to appreciate is that writing is a solitary and often lonely occupation. This works both ways: writing leads to solitude, but solitude can also lead to writing. It is this last consideration that brings me to my own reasons for writing. It would be untrue to say that I had never wanted to write before a serious accident rendered me housebound for several months, but it was little more than an unconscious desire, submerged for the most part by the many competing attractions and obligations of everyday life, emerging only rarely during moments of quiet solitude, or after having read something particularly enjoyable or inspiring. It was only then I sometimes thought, yes, I’d like to write something like that and to write as well as that! But such occasions are few and far between. For myself it had always been impossible not to allow the pressures of family and everyday life combine to make any serious attempt at writing an impractical, if not impossible dream; perhaps I used this as an excuse, for indeed there are many who overcame such obstacles to realise their dreams, but for me, the constant rationalisation that there was always tomorrow, the day after, or the weekend, to start putting pen to paper, held me back. My own fault I admit. What made me do so was, again, among other things, having read a book that I found particularly enjoyable, Nineteen Eighty-Four if I remember correctly. Upon finishing it I decided I too would like to write something similar (or at least try). Being housebound as I was I felt as trapped and imprisoned as is possible to be short of being a guest of Her Majesty. Ironically though it was those very circumstances that provided the very time and freedom I needed to write – or at least freedom from all the excuses that had fed my past procrastination. Thus finally inspired, my main obstacle was to put down that first word, a daunting prospect for any fledgeling writer. But once you have taken that first step the writing becomes easier. Word follows word, sentence follows sentence, and paragraphs take shape to form chapters until such time as that elusive first poem, article, short story, or even a novel may one day emerge. It may seem ironic, even absurd that such an incapacity might provide one with any kind of freedom, but given the right attitude and self-discipline it can be equally surprising just how conductive a temporary restriction of one’s physical freedoms and mobility can actually be to any new, or even I should imagine an experienced writer. Cut off from many of the distractions of the outside world and pursuits of ordinary life, being housebound encouraged me to call upon the resources of my imagination and experience. One only has to think of those have found themselves truly cut off from the outside world, I speak of course those writers and authors who have for whatever reason begun or continued their writing whilst in prison: Dostoevsky, Oscar Wilde, Daniel Defoe, and, more recently, the likes of John McVicar, and Jimmy Boyle. Evidently, solitude can be developed into a valuable resource. It can enable one to get in touch with one’s deepest feelings, to form ideas, and encourage the growth of one’s creative imagination, culminating in the elusive ‘written’ word. But what of the benefits of writing? Not the obvious ones of possible fame and fortune, but the more personal, more intimate? During those months of recovery, it would be absurd to suggest that writing in any way changed the physical reality of my situation but it did provide an enjoyable and often fascinating pastime, a marvellous form of escape if you like. It was only when I was alone, with a pen, paper, and a desire to write that I finally produced my first literary efforts. The circumstances were far from ideal but with pen in hand (or fingers on a keypad these days), a few ideas, and a fair degree of imagination, I could be anywhere in the world, create any scenario – an entire world and its characters were there for me to create and immerse myself in. Often I would find myself totally absorbed in what I was trying to say and the struggle involved in trying to transform my thoughts into some form of readable prose. This was not always and indeed still isn’t an easy task. My recovery was slow but nonetheless eventually complete, and my enforced solitude came to an end. It was by no means the ideal milieu for my writing but it was the catalyst for it for which I shall always be grateful. To conclude then, there is no magic formula as to how or why people write. Only you, the writer, can answer that question. And for each of us, I suspect the answer will be different. But whatever the reason, only you can make it happen: imagination, a love of words, creativity, enthusiasm, and the desire to write – those are your tools. All you need is to take the opportunity to use them.