15 Compelling Reasons to be a Writer

15 Compelling Reasons to be a Writer

Why do writers write?  Why do you write?  Is it for fame or fortune or do you write for another reason?

There are a number of common motivations for writing. A writer’s motivations are closely linked with their ‘author purpose’ such as writing to inform or writing to entertain. If you understand your author purpose and key motivations then you will be able to focus more on whatever it is that you are trying to achieve. If you don’t understand your motivations and reasons for writing then how on earth will you define your success?

Let’s look at some of the compelling reasons to be a writer. While many of these motivations are about what you want to get out of your writing, some of them are also associated with what your readers get out of it.

currency-symbolWriting for Money

Most of us have bills to pay every month. That’s a strong motivator for many of us… the desire to earn enough from our writing so that we can live comfortably. How much you are able to earn as an author will depend upon many factors – the type of writing (fiction, ghostwriting, copy writing, etc.), your expertise and even your location (although this is less important for some types of writing than it was ten years ago). According to Payscale, the median writer/author salary in the United States is currently around $49,773 and the average rate for freelancers is $25.86 per hour.

time36Writing for the Flexible Lifestyle

Another closely related motivation is the goal of quitting our day-time job and working full-time as a writer. Many of us are drawn to a writing career because we want a flexible lifestyle where we take control of our working hours and place of work.

loudspeaker17Writing to Inform the Public

For some writers, especially news reporters and journalists, their motivation for writing is to inform people and get the real story out to their readers. Sometimes this comes hand-in-hand with a motivation to hold accountable those people in positions of power.

As I was writing this, I was also struck with the fact that writing to inform does not always involve revealing the truth. If you work in information warfare department of the security services then your motivation for writing may be to “misinform” for strategic military purposes.

inspirationWriting to Get the Scoop

One of the main drives among reporters is to be first with a “scoop” of a major breaking story. Scoops are not always about breaking news. Sometimes writers are motivated to write an “intellectual scoop”. During a stint at The New York Times as Public Editor, Byron Calame looked into the motivations of their reporters. With regards to intellectual scoops he wrote, “When you can look at all the dots everyone can look at, and be the first to connect them in a meaningful and convincing way, that’s something.”

businessman277Writing to Instruct

Another reason to write is to educate or teach our readers how to do something. I wrote a book on how to publish ebooks because I wanted to help my readers to be able to do it themselves and save hundreds of dollars. Another example is a professor who writes a new science textbook. Teaching and helping others is sometimes a strong motivation.

contract11Writing to Leave a Legacy

What contribution will you make, and leave for the generations that follow you? Through your writing, you have an opportunity to leave a legacy that will outlast you. People may be reading your work for hundreds of years to come. Your great-grandchildren may receive an income from the books you are writing today. What an incredible opportunity to provide some financial security for your heirs or to leave your mark on the world through your manuscripts.

best-choiceWriting for a Sense of Accomplishment

For some writers, their motivation is to gain the sense of accomplishment that comes from having a book published… or even from finishing a book. I can still remember how good it felt to finish my first draft of a novel during NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago. I usually write non-fiction, but I loved the challenge of writing a novel and finishing that first draft.

prize3Writing to Win

Some writers are driven by a love of winning. They want to receive first place in a writing contest or be honored with a Pulitzer prize. They want their book to reach No.1 on their favorite bestseller list.

stamp13Writing to Make a Difference

Some people choose to write because they want to “make a difference” and have an influence on the world around them. As Tom Stoppard said “Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” 

Spanish essayist and professor Miguel de Unamuno explained his motivation, “My aim is to agitate and disturb people. I’m not selling bread, I’m selling yeast.” 

As writers, we have the opportunity to influence the way that people see and view the world. Is this one of your motivations?

marketing8Writing to Persuade People

Another reason for writing is to persuade our readers to take a particular action. If we are writing marketing copy then this will probably be one of our main motivations. Our goal in writing may be to convince our readers of the value in obtaining and using a particular product or service

chess-pieceWriting to Entertain People

Writing to entertain is a common author purpose. Many of us seek to entertain our readers through our novels. Some writers entertain by writing scripts for plays, sitcoms, and television shows. Some write poetry and the lyrics for the songs we hear on the latest billboard charts. Is one of your compelling motivations to entertain people?

officeWriting Because Your Job Requires It

I realize that people write for all kinds of reasons and sometimes it is not so much by choice as it is out of necessity… especially if writing is a core requirement of your job. The reality is that a lot of people write for this reason.

office42Writing for Academic Studies

We all went to school… most of us, at least. Another reason that people write out of necessity is when they are studying at an educational institute. The act of writing material down is known to help in the process of learning a new topic. Also, our knowledge of a given subject is typically tested through what we can write on the topic during an examination.

drink70Writing for the Love of It

One of the best motivations to write is simply because you love writing. Here are some quotations from well-known authors on this:

“I believe that you either love the work or the rewards. Life is a lot easier if you love the work.” ~ Jane Smiley

“The only thing more tormenting than writing is not writing.” ~ Cynthia Ozick

“When I sit down at my writing desk, time seems to vanish. I think it’s a wonderful way to spend one’s life.” ~ Erica Jong

“The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you 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.” ~ Neil Gaiman

searching1Writing to be More Alive

Have you ever considered that writing helps us to be more alive? Writing helps us to appreciate the little details that many people miss around them… we see the tiny leaves on a plant, we hear the gentle whisper of the breeze, we notice the aroma of cooking coming from the food cart on the street. In order to describe these experiences and to recreate the locations and atmospheres in our books we first have to notice then and pay close attention.

Now if that doesn’t beat being stuck in the same corporate cubicle every day, I don’t know what does!

Some of you may be familiar with Stephen King’s book on our craft On Writing. If you haven’t read it, you should. In a postscript called ‘On Living’ Stephen King writes, “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

So, there are many reasons for writing. 
There are no right and wrong motivations, but it is important to understand and appreciate what are your main reasons for writing.

seo50If you know your reasons then you can set some realistic targets. For example:

  • to finish my novel by next February.
  • to self-publish 3 books this year.
  • to expose the illegal logging industry.
  • to earn $60,000 from my writing over the next 12 months.
  • to move 5,000 copies of my books through Amazon’s Kindle store.
  • to build my social media following to 50,000 followers, fans and email subscribers.

Whatever your own reasons for writing, always write the very best you can. Write something that’s going to be remembered. Write something that’s going to outlast you. Also, as Arthur Miller cautioned, “Don’t be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.”

What are your motivational drives? What gives you the most satisfaction as a writer? I welcome your comments below.

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Gary McLaren

Gary McLaren is an author and digital entrepreneur. He blogs at Writers Unplugged and manages Worldwide Freelance Writer. He's been helping writers online for more than 16 years. You can also follow Gary on social media at Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

18 Responses

  1. Great points, thank you for this article! I like to say I write because it’s what I do, it’s who I am. Of course, my hope is that what I write will be read and will impact someone, and that someday I’ll be compensated for my labor and those things may bring a deeper satisfaction, but the truth is even if no one ever reads a word I write, I’ll still write them.

  2. George Lockie says:

    A embryonic plot somehow enters my head and just grows and consumes my thoughts to the point the only way to get peace is to write it out as a complete novel, then it goes quietly and I am free to think rationally again.

  3. Daniel Agostinelli says:

    When you write a novel is it necessary to have an outline of the entire novel? Can you instead start the novel just by writing a description of a scene or character?. Can you just follow that description with anything that forms in your mind and have the story write itself? Is this procedure an understanding of the way some people or many people begin a novel?

    • Gary McLaren says:

      Hi Daniel, thanks for the question. Some novelists start writing without an outline. For me, it helps when I plan in advance the major turning points or ‘doorways’ in the novel. I have found James Scott Bell’s advice in Plot & Structure to be very helpful.

    • Diane Ziomek says:

      Daniel, when I wrote my first novel I basically pantsed it. I had no plan, no plot and no list of characters until I started writing. The second I had a bit of a plan, and the third (which is still in progress) I actually did an outline. The three are all connected, so it has been easier to plot as I’ve gone along.

      You do what works for you – there is no right or wrong way to do it; as long as you get it done. Some novels write themselves, while others need some planning. One system doesn’t work for everyone. It’s up to you to decide what works best for you, but help is never far away.

  4. Frances Dunn says:

    I loved the 15 compelling reasons for writing. I write because I love to write. I’m excited when one of my short stories is published-recognition. And it would be nice if could make a few $$$ occasionally from my writing pursuits. I’m looking forward to the information forthcoming from Writers Unplugged.

  5. Lorena Keck says:

    I enjoyed reading Writers Unplugged blog. I write in hopes of bringing people into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s my only purpose, so it’s important that my writing doesn’t stay filed in some drawer or website. My problem is getting time to write.

  6. Diane Ziomek says:

    I write for several of these reasons, with hopes that one day I’ll be able to live on my writing alone. I started writing online five years ago and haven’t looked back. It was more of a hobby when I started, but now it even pays some bills. I am more interested in helping others through my nonfiction, but thanks to NaNoWriMo 2012 I stepped outside my comfort zone and wrote a novel. I have self-published all of my books, which has given me more knowledge and information to pass along to others. If I can help just one person reach their goals as a writer, then I have achieved what I set out to do.

  1. August 12, 2015

    […] 15 compelling reasons to be a writer. It would be awesome to write to have the Flexible Lifestyle, but mostly I write to Entertain People – or better, myself. And of course I write for the Love of It! I missed it in the past ten days, although I did have computers to borrow to type on, but I wanted to keep working on a story I had started and and and… okay, procrastination kicked in. […]

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