For years I have been a writer, an editor and a teacher of creative writing. Now I want to share some of what I have learned along the way. Write On The Fringes is a blog about the dangers, the disappointments and the rewards of writing. It's a record of the writing of a novel, from the tantalising first inklings of an idea, through to the final draft. But above all it's an exploration of the art and the craft of writing and the nature of story, as well as a search for the essence of creativity and the complex nature of truth.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why Write?

From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason that you know of. But what about all the reasons that no one knows? Ernest Hemingway

Each time I am about to embark on a new novel, I find myself considering my reasons for writing. It helps me to reaffirm my motivations at a time when I'm struggling with the idea of committing to a new project. It also reminds me that writing is my path in life and it's futile resisting it.

There are other reasons for considering why we wish to write. It helps us to discover the kind of writing we want to do, the themes we wish to work with and even if writing is for us. If your reason for writing is publication and celebrity status, if you don't love reading, if you don't feel irresistibly drawn to express yourself in this form, then perhaps writing is not for you. Fewer than 1% of writers get published and of these, very few have financial success. If you don't mind not being able to afford a dentist or a new car, not having annual holidays or sick pay. If you don't mind having no guarantees of success and putting up with friends and relatives dismissing your writing; the raised eyebrows and the hopeful questions – 'Not published yet?' If you can enjoy the process and not wish it away by hankering after the finished product. If you can weather hundreds of rejection slips and put aside your ego long enough to stomach criticism, then writing might be for you.

'To record the world as it is. . . To satisfy my desire for revenge. . . To produce order out of chaos. . . To defend the human spirit and human integrity and honour. . . To make money so my children could have shoes. . . To make money so I could sneer at those who formerly sneered at me. . . To justify my failures in school. . . To thwart my parents. . . To make myself appear more interesting than I actually was. . .Because an angel dictated to me. . .To amuse and please the reader . . . Because I was possessed. . . To subvert the Establishment. . . To celebrate life in all its complexity'. . . These are just a few of the motivations for writing that Margaret Atwood compiled in her book, Negotiating With the Dead.

Atwood came to the conclusion that it is fruitless to search for common motives, while George Orwell came up with his own motivations in his wonderful essay, Why I Write. 'Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose: sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living.' Orwell goes on to say that 'all writers are vain, selfish and lazy and at the bottom of their motives lies a mystery'.

I would like to say that I write because I love it, and I do. I love stories. I love the process of writing. The act of faith it entails. The magic of it. And its mystery. In writing stories, in the forming of sentences and plots it's possible to rediscover magic, to cast spells with words and to bewitch our readers. I love both the art and the craft of writing. I love the fact that learning the craft is a lifelong apprenticeship, that there are always challenges and there is always something more to learn. And I am hugely grateful that I have something to say and a medium through which to say it.

However, sometimes my relationship with writing is a love/hate one. The process of writing can be an uncomfortable one, very frustrating at times but also incredibly rewarding. There are good days and bad days, sometimes good months and bad months. In the end I write because I need to. A need that one of my favourite authors, Franz Kafka expressed in a letter to his friend, Max Brod, 'A non writing writer is a monster inviting madness. . . the existence of the writer is truly dependent on his desk and if he wants to keep madness at bay he must never go far from his desk, he must hold on to it with his teeth.'

There are times when I question myself and my writing, times when it crawls along at an excruciatingly slow pace and times when I can't write at all. In order to deal with the ups and downs of writing I have had to understand my own rhythms and begin to respect them. Sometimes I walk away from the desk for days at a time but now I know that I will eventually return and the words will flow again.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:


  1. Great post, and interesting to read if you haven't been writing recently. Having embarked on a couple of large editing projects I am finding myself time-poor, but realise that if I don't make time to write my inspiration may well escape me. Nice work.