Why do we write?

When I was at university some fellow writers and I compared the importance of brain surgeons over writers. Although I do not deny the brilliance of brain surgery, I was quite disappointed in the majority opinion to elevate these mere mortals to a higher plane than writers. I don’t deny they may save a few lives but so do our bus drivers—wether they are aerial or terrestrial in transit.

Writers however (and some other artists) can do more than save a few lives.

  • we are the legislators of tomorrow (source unknown)
  • we provide feedback and test-run changes in society
  • and we can inspire generations into action and illicit positive change in society.

If a piece of writing does not add to our collective consciousness, or alter our behaviour—even in some minor way—it is pointless.  But this need not get too high and mighty:

Not everything we write is going to bring down a government, it could simply be a nostalgic drama that reminds us to value each moment of our life; prompting us to stop our writing, or turn the television off, and play hide-n-seek with our kids.

“W” is for Why we write

17 thoughts on “Why do we write?

  1. Pingback: A to Z Challenge – a retrospective « A Fettered Mind

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  3. Do you know the famous story about the Canadian novelist Margaret Laurence? I have heard many versions of it – but here is a succint one:


    A brain surgeon, upon finding out that Laurence was a writer remarked that he planned to write novels when he retired. She replied that she planned to take up brain surgery when she retired.

    Laurence is pointing out that good writing requires craft and skill, not just talent and enthusiasm. I agree, but I also believe that a lot of people can benefit from the joy learning any creative pursuit, whether they become externally successful at it or not. In addition, there are quite a few scientists that have written good novels! Anyway, when the brain surgeon in question sits down to write his novel, he will certainly be confronted with the inherent challenges.

    I enjoyed your post–it made this story come to mind.

  4. I don’t think this statement is true about being pointless:

    “If a piece of writing does not add to our collective consciousness, and alter our behaviour—even in some minor way—it is pointless. But this need not get too high and mighty: … ”

    For some reason, words have to be expressed by a writer, whether or not, they are meant to inspire anything. I see them as a percolation of the mind, of the collective consciousness in some form. I couldn’t possibly relate to everything written but I can relate to the process of expression itself as an essential tool of reasoning and progress.

  5. None is better than the other, I fail to see how one skill can be compared to another skill. This is like comparing an apple to a rainbow.

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