Why do I write? I hadn’t pondered this until recently when I was asked to contribute to a presentation on the subject. Writing is something I’ve always done in one form or another albeit for the most part as a journalist.
I am a new creative writer who has had modest success. I’ve had a film commissioned along with radio dramas. I’ve been placed in novel writing and short story competitions, but nothing to bring in the big bucks so far. I’m not in it for money, that’s for sure. Research shows that for even those lucky enough to have novels published and out there, it is difficult to earn a liveable crust from publishing royalties alone. Most authors one encounters have revealed (with differing levels of bitterness) that they supplement incomes through teaching, lecturing and talking at festivals. We can’t all be JK Rowling, they smile through clenched teeth.
I don’t write because of the fabulous social life it provides. Writing is a solitary old game, and even though I have an understanding husband he has little comprehension of the struggles and tribulations one has as a writer. Even if one is part of a writing group or is enrolled on an MA or suchlike, in the end it is just you and your laptop/notebook on your own. That said, I have met some wonderful friends through writing groups, festivals and so on. But for the mostly I’m on my own.
I don’t pick up my pen because I have oodles of spare time that I’m not sure what to do with. Other writers out there reading this will no doubt sympathise that finding time is often a problem. That’s why my garden needs doing, and don’t see friends as often as I’d like, although it must be said that if one truly wants to be a writer, one will find the time.
I write not because I am struck by the overwhelming urge to communicate or use my pen as a weapon. I’m a writer of commercial prose, screenplays and radio drama. I don’t claim a part of some great movement or be the instigator of an as-yet unnamed writerly revolution. It is the case I sometimes wake in the middle of the night with an idea which I get down on paper, but I wouldn’t be riddled with torment and guilt if I didn’t. I’d been annoyed with myself at letting a gem slip away, but my world would still turn.
No, I write because I am an egomaniac. I want people to read my work and tell me they think it’s good, although not in a sycophantic uncritical way favoured by beginners’ writing groups and family and friends that don’t wish to offend. I want to be the best in my field. I declared earlier that I am not a literary great but an unashamed commercial writer, but don’t think that I want to spurt out rubbish that readers will derive no satisfaction from. I’m competitive by nature. I don’t want to be run of the mill. I definitely don’t want to con anyone. I crave the top position quality-wise with my writing.
I think all writers like me suffer from egomania, even if they are in the initial baby stages of the condition. Before you throw scorn on this and at me (along with freshly sharpened pencils and well targeted quills), just think about it for a moment.
Do you write for yourself? Do you really? Certainly writing can be a form of therapy where we can pour out our indignations and rants against those who have wronged us. It makes us feel miles better. But even if we don’t show our work to anyone, do we secretly yearn to? For someone to tell us yes you are right and poor, poor you. And for them to yelp in surprise my goodness, what a genius writer you are!
If we write for family and friends, surely we want them to coo approval over it? I know lots of writers who write for pleasure and in order to chart their grand/children’s progress for posterity. There’s no harm in that in fact it’s a wonderful way of communicating how one feels. But don’t fool yourself. You want people to tell you how good your work is.
So I am not going to deny that my writing is linked in with my ego. But saying that, please believe me when I say I don’t think to be a big shot. I’m not getting swollen headed with a sense of my own self importance because I admit to being in possession of an ego. I am a new writer and still on a steep learning curve which is an uncomfortable one to navigate, yet alone climb at times. I pitch ideas and enter competitions frequently – some I win, but the rest not. It’s the reality of making a name for oneself in the writing world.
But I’m feeling my way around that world. And that’s good for my ego.