Why do we do this? Why—in the face of frustration, failure, futility—do we slave away on our articles, manuscripts ... blogs and pray that a few folks will read what we have to say? The “bird-brains” offer some insight on this seemingly masochistic endeavor.
In bird by bird ... Anne Lamott shares information about the ultimate reason writers do what they do. Early in her writing journey, she received scathing criticism from an editor and experienced the mortification with which many of us are familiar. But rather than ditch her story, she took his advice and “with great trepidation” sat down to revise. As she wrote, she had an epiphany: the realization that this time “I wasn’t writing the book with my thumb stuck out, trying to hitchhike into history; I just wanted to write a book for my father that might also help someone going through a similar situation.” She also discovered “There is no cosmic importance to your getting something published, but there is in learning to be a giver.”
In Gooney Bird is Absurd, author Lois Lowry poignantly demonstrates the same message. Throughout the school year, Gooney Bird and her teacher Mrs. Pigeon work tirelessly to share the techniques and joys of storytelling with Gooney’s classmates. Through various programs and activities, the second-graders learn to appreciate the satisfaction and fun that can come from creating their own stories and poems. But not until the class experiences the death of someone dear to them do they learn the true worth of their writing. When they compose "A Goodbye Poem,” they are able to express their sympathy to the family of the departed and alleviate their own sense of loss.
The common thread of these two stories is that they both get to the root of why we write. We write out of the desire to give and to connect. Whether we write fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or a letter to the editor, we write to share our thoughts, observances, successes, and even our failures. We hope that in baring our souls, we can somehow shed a sliver of light on others experiences. We might not be able to solve readers’ problems. But we can offer encouragement and let them know they’re not alone. For confirmation of this, check out Jennifer Cazzola's comments here.
You might be questioning whether your writing motives are this pure. I mean, what writer among us has never dreamed of making the bestseller list, winning the Pulitzer, or landing a movie deal? Who doesn’t send out each manuscript with the secret expectation that this is the next Harry Potter phenomenon? Who doesn't blog with visions of becoming the next Pioneer Woman or the online answer to Erma Bombeck? But if you're doubting the altruistic reasons behind your writing, ask yourself this: If I had no chance of ever being published, of ever making a dime, of ever having an audience of more than one, would I still write? If your answer is “yes,” then I think you’ve found the “write” reason.