Why Do You Write?

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It’s February, which means Valentine’s Day, which means being inundated with articles about love and relationships. While there’s plenty to discuss in regard to romance in your work, today I’d like to talk about something a bit more existential: your relationship to your work.

Why do you write? Do you love it?

Dorothy Parker infamously said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” That quote resonates with many writers; the process can be torturous. And we all have aspects of writing we love more than others—some people are idea machines; others live for revision. But regardless of which stage you prefer, it’s worth pausing to figure out specifically what it is about writing that you love.

I bring this up because it’s easier than ever to get discouraged as a writer. The bar to traditional publication is high, and there are enough works being self-published that it’s tough for any one title to find its readers. I’ve talked to many writers who, after querying several books, have decided to put writing on the back burner. It’s understandably difficult to keep investing time and energy into something with minimal rewards.

When the extrinsic goals—money, renown, validation—are uncertain, I think it’s important to focus on writing’s more intrinsic benefits. If you’re struggling just now to imagine just what those could be, consider the joy of:

  • Evoking a full-sense memory of a place you once visited.

  • Bringing two characters together to kiss—finally.

  • Crafting the perfect turn of phrase to capture an emotion both specific and universal.

  • Making yourself cry with an emotional scene.

  • Solving the plot problem that’s been nagging you for weeks.

These small victories may pale in comparison to your big dreams—but these little moments of joy are the only things entirely in your control. So I urge you to savor them, celebrate them, consider how to generate more of them. If you cultivate these feelings of love for the work itself, that could be the thing that keeps you going.

This month’s newsletter will offer suggestions for falling back in love with your work in progress. But in the meantime, please feel free to share in the comments your reasons for writing and any little things you love about it.