Why Do you Write?
Posted on September 23rd, 2011
I would like to state for the record here that I am not old, I’ve just been doing this a long time, putting my thoughts on the screen and hitting publish.
Unfortunately, most of it was personal and much of it is excruciating to read back on (even though I enjoy doing so every once in a while). I never learned about SEO, never got my own domain or hosting, had no idea what monetizing even meant. I’m still not quite sure I understand any of those things.
Blogging and writing have come a long way since then. Now, it’s possible to leverage off your blog to wrangle a book deal. Every other blog seems to offer an e-book, free or paid. There is literally a plethora of advice out there on how to attract readers, convert them to subscribers, increase your page rank . Everyone knows the same advice: post regularly, include a call to action, make your subscribe buttons prominent. Use light colors, use dark colors, avoid colors altogether.
There’s a commercial aspect to blogging that didn’t exist when I first started doing it, when I first started being excited about it. Back then everyone blogged about personal stuff and no one thought twice about whether or not their lives were interesting enough to talk about. No one accused us of navel-gazing because everyone was doing the same thing and we didn’t think it was a bad thing.
But like everything else, blogging has evolved. New formats sprung up, new topics, new bloggers (a lot of them!). Like toddlers who have suddenly discovered the concept of ‘other people’, bloggers turned outward instead of inward, and learned the value of doing so. The focus became the audience.
This is a very good thing, by the way. There are more ways than ever now for a writer to make money and this can only be good news to someone who aspires to make a living by her pen.
But sometimes I wonder, with all this emphasis on readership and monetization and subscription, what are we really writing for?
It all comes back to the question: why do you write?
At a recent function, someone asked me what my blog was about. Suddenly, that dreaded question ‘what do you do?’ had become ‘what do you blog about?’ and unlike in the past, I had no clear answer. The best I could come up with was ‘It’s a bit of a lifestyle blog.’
I started Flyleaf as a place to house (what I hoped would be) a growing portfolio of clips. On the way, I wanted to write about anything and everything that interested me, in the most entertaining way possible. And that’s all there is in terms of external motivations for this blog: I want to entertain you, the reader, and I want a place I can direct people to and say, here, this is some of the stuff I’ve written so far, I hope you like it, I hope I can write something for you. I can’t get any more honest than that.
But here’s the thing: what if no one ever read my blog? What if I never, ever got a writing job? What if no one ever read, let alone published, anything I wrote? What if a tree fell in a forest and no one was around to hear it, would it still make a sound?
Nevermind about the last one. The point is that the answer to the first three is always a resounding Yes.
Would I love it if my blog was read and followed by lots and lots of readers? Of course. Would I be thrilled if I actually got into an MFA program? Yes. Would I sell my firstborn to get my novel published? Mais oui. (Just kidding. Maybe.)
But if none of the above ever happened, I would still continue to write because writing is what I do.
If all I ever succeeded in doing with my writing is collect a pile of blog posts and dusty notebooks, I would still continue to do it. Writing is how I breathe, how I move through life, without which I could not possibly function. Writing is neccessary to me. Writing is what makes being in this world feel right, what makes sense out of the chaos. Writing is how I enter the world but it is also how I create space between the world and me. Writing is the line that I draw between me and you as much as the line that connects us both.
In the end, I may write to seek an audience, but even without one I would still continue to write.
So here’s the question of the day: Why do you write?