I was thinking today, while writing, of course, about why it is that we writers do what we do. Far be it from me to speak for anyone but myself, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my thoughts about this are held widely among writers, if not explicitly stated. Let me know if I’m wrong.
Writers deal with a lot of things that people in other professions working the 9 to 5 don’t. (That being said I’d take my life as a writer over an office any day, but still.) We seek, and sometimes struggle, to find the right words. We tell stories. We deal with payments that come in 60 days or more after we complete the work. We try to find stories that haven’t been told, or to tell them from a different angle.
We interview leads, we query, we query, we query, we pitch, we stay up late, we work seven days a week, we retreat into the inner confines of our studies or the local Starbucks and stay within ourselves for hours searching for the perfect way to say what we’re trying to say.
But why say it? Why do we do it? Why not earn a steady paycheck sacrificing 8 hours of our time a day and doing whatever we please in the meantime?
Every writer has his or her own reasons, when one examines the psyche of the writer and motivations behind the written word, to be sure. But I suspect that among those reasons is one, universal, unwavering drive.
We write to tell the stories that need to be told and to, in some way, bring our chaotic, frantic, bustling world into a moment of quiet. A moment where someone who was once adrift in that chaos takes time to step out of it, to read what we have put on the page and then – if we’ve done it right – takes time to think.
Between the thinkers and the doers are the tellers. Writers do an awful lot and we think an awful lot, but in a way, we are the bridge between what needs to be noticed and thought about and getting people to actually notice and think about them.
Writers are, in a large sense, observers. You rarely see a writer get caught up in the chaotic, whirlwind nature of modern society so typical of Western culture. Why? Because writers are observing the chaos and then they notice something, and once they notice it they tell you about it, and make you think. They make you question the seemingly obvious, and wonder about those things taken for granted.
If you tell somebody on the street that you think the wealth disparity in the world is appalling, they might agree and continue on. When you write The Hunger Games, those who understand what you’re implying have seen it played out before them and then the magic happens.
Then they think about it.
Because now, it’s not just an idea or a principle, it’s a living, breathing, tangible story. They can see the implications. They have, in a way, lived it through reading.
Literature – good literature – always has been and always will be about telling a story that holds within it an important point, and telling it with the goal of making the audience stop, be quiet for a moment, listen, and then think.
The pen may very well be mightier than the sword. The sword lends to more chaos, but the pen is the instrument that makes a person stop and consider.
And that’s what we writers do. That’s why we do it. It’s a calling of sorts that we all feel, in duty bound, to follow.
And I, for one, think that we are privileged to be able to do such a thing and to tell such stories and to provide these moments of very much needed quiet contemplation.