Monday, January 10, 2011

What are you doing when you write?

One question authors get asked frequently is, “Why do you write?” Eventually, you get a stock answer ready: because I can’t not write; to get the voices out of my head; it’s just something I have to do; it’s a sickness.

But I’ve never been asked to take it one step further. What am I writing for? What am I writing toward? What do I hope to accomplish with my writing? Maybe what I’m trying to say is, What to I hope to achieve through writing?

There are two people affected by what I write. Me and my reader. (More will be affected if more than one person reads my writing, which is what I hope!)

The effects on me are continued relative sanity. That is not ensured if I don’t write, believe me. Maybe a degree of catharsis in some cases. Maybe clarity of thought; writing helps me think out things that are jumbled in my head sometimes. Keeps me off the streets and out of the malls, too.

Then there are my readers. I hope to get the stuff read, right? But why? What do I hope my reader to get out of my writing? There, that’s the question I’ve been working toward. This essay just got me there! What do I want to happen for my reader?

The least I hope for is entertainment. The humorous mystery that will come out in May will, I hope, amuse some readers, make them laugh, take them away from their troubles for a few hours. I’m a tremendous believer in comedy. I think laughing can keep your life in balance, get rid of bad stuff inside you.

I’m also hoping to entertain with my short stories, but those aren’t funny, except in a dry, black humor way usually. But any reading can give a person enjoyment and diversion.

The little pamphlet I just did this weekend on self-publishing, though, is an attempt to help out fellow writers. I couldn’t find everything I needed in one place when I did the short story collection, so I gathered all my findings and put them in one place. I hope this can save some writers time and aggravation.

I wonder what most writers hope for their readers. Or if they think about that.


  1. I'll be happy if I can entertain and perhaps now and then say something worth remembering. I'd like to help my readers, but I don't think I know anything they'd be likely to need or that they can't find elsewhere.

    Your book should be very helpful. Just from reading some of your blog posts about self-publishing, I can see that having all the info in one place will be a boon to writers.

    (I admire the way you use "affect" and "effect." I graded so many papers, my eye automatically locks on to words like that. Very distracting, but there's no cure.)

  2. I know. I get uptight about farther and further, too, now that I know the difference. I didn't used to--converts are the worst.