What’s Behind the Urge to Write?

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By Katherine Sharma

Recently, a friend wondered about whether to write a blog, and it got me thinking about writers’ motives.

  • George Orwell, in a well-known essay titled “Why I Write,” laid out the “four great motives” of authors:
  • Sheer egotism (the desire to leave an individual mark)
  • Aesthetic enthusiasm (pleasure in the beauty of prose)
  •  Historical impulse (to reveal the truth of the world as it is)
  •  Political purpose (to push the world in a certain direction)

Orwell cited political purpose as his main motive for works such as Nineteen Eighty-Four. In contrast, Joan Didion, known for literary journalism in works such as The Year of Magical Thinking, cites an internal intellectual impluse: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

So why do I write? Well, Orwell’s and Didion’s motives may be involved, but, when it comes to fiction, I admit to being driven by an inner compulsion, an ultimately irresistible force of story and characters that demand release into words of pain, pleasure, fear and hope, words that are a revelation both surprising and familiar to me.

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Author Judy Blume has echoed this feeling: “Those of us who write do it because there are stories inside us burning to get out. Writing is essential to our well-being.” Yet the result is not just relief from the pressure of bottled ideas and feelings (author Anne Rice would call them “obsessions”) but incomparable pleasure, which is perhaps my ultimate motive for writing. As Neil Gaiman, author of comic books and the award-winning fantasy novel American Gods, explains, writers “get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising… and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.” In this way, writers and artists share with prophets the special ecstasy of inspiration–whether it comes profanely from within or divinely from above. See what other famous authors say about motives for writing: http://flavorwire.com/303590/15-famous-authors-on-why-they-write


Katherine Sharma’s family roots are in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. But after her early childhood in Texas, she has moved around the country and lived in seven other states, from Virginia to Hawaii. She currently resides in California with her husband and three children. She has also traveled extensively in Europe, Africa and Asia, and makes regular visits to family in India. After receiving her bachelor’s degree. in economics and her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Michigan, Katherine worked as a newspaper and magazine writer and editor for more than 15 years. She then shifted into management and marketing roles for firms in industries ranging from outdoor recreation to insurance to direct marketing. Although Katherine still works as a marketing consultant, she is now focused on creative writing.

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