Different people write for different reasons. Some for money. Some for fame. Some for posterity, and some for popularity.
John, the author of the fourth Gospel, said he wrote “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30, NIV).
That may be the best answer of all time to the question, “Why do you write?” I can’t top that, so I won’t even try. I can offer only these 20 reasons I write:
- For the love of God.
- For the love of others.
- For the love of words.
- To change lives.
- To express myself.
- To process my thoughts.
- To leave a legacy.
- Because it’s fun. Enjoyable. Sometimes.
- For money. Very little, but still . . .
- To learn.
- To honor those whose writing has changed my life, many times over.
- Because I can’t help myself.
- Because I’m vain enough that I like seeing my name in print.
- Because it’s among the few things at which I’m relatively capable.
- Because sometimes, in the moment, it’s so wonderful that it makes me laugh.
- Because sometimes, in the moment, it’s so wonderful that it makes me cry.
- To stir up the gift I believe God has given me.
- To grow in faith, as I find that my writing fuels and often stretches my faith.
- To be read.
- To be healed.
So why do you write (if you do)? What drives you? What keeps you going through critique, revision, and rejection?
Why I write? Well… can I just copy your list? Or is that cheating…?
I love history, but find no joy in studying it professionally writing long articles that no one will read.
Writing historical fiction using sources and making up what happened inbetween is a lot more fun. I also believe it makes history more accessible to the general public.
It is also a good excuse to research many different epochs. Getting a more broad, albeit shallow knowledge, rather than going deep and devoting my entire life to something specific.
Also, I am vain enough to really really want to see my name in print.
Yes, yes, yes, twenty times YES !
I needed to hear this today.
Thank you Bob !
It’s the best way to communicate what I want to say without being interrupted.
Thank you, Bob for always sharing your beautiful heart and words of wisdom. This is so good. I write because to not write would be to disobey and I can no longer do that to my Father. ?
Ann L Coker
Good to see you here.
What a powerful list. I think we should all do this from time to time. It will remind us why we chose to do life with words and the power they hold.
Damon J. Gray
Goodness, Bob, so many thoughts here. My initial reaction to the email subject line (I missed the 20 reasons tag) was that I need to offer A reason, one reason for Why I Write. I am very pleased to see that you offer twenty, as that makes much more sense. Your list is glorious!
Many years ago, following a Sunday service where I had spoken, a woman came up to me and said, “You are a word-crafter.” I loved the sound of that, and never let it go. It meant so much to me, because she was a journalist, working daily with words.
If I were pressed for that one answer, that would be it. I love words.
Stealing a line from the bio on my web site:
Damon is a word-crafter, one who delights in an artfully-woven sentence the way a chef delights in a deliciously-prepared meal.
You hit the nail on the head. All 20 describe what no one else understands. Will print this one out!
5, 8, 12,16,18,19.
Amen to your list Mr. Bob. I’ve spent a lifetime writing because I “have to.” I’m somehow incomplete in my thoughts and in my life if I don’t put them down on paper. At an early age, I found it easier to communicate via the written word than with my imperfect speech. With a voice that was something akin to a cross between a foghorn and “Elmer Fudd”, my writing was subjected to much less ridicule. As for my Christian writing, like you, it is my attempt to repay and honor God for all He’s done in my life.
Lois Freeman Easley
All of the above! Thx!!
1 and 12 are my primary reasons, Bob. Thanks for sharing yours. It’s interesting you should mention John 20:30. When I wrote my novel set during the black plague, I included this verse. It was quoted by a physician about to be burned at the stake for having a copy of scripture and sharing it with others, a strict no-no at that time.
As I was not writing for the Christian market but rather to include the gospel message contained in that one small verse, I wasn’t sure how it would be received by mainstream publishing. Much to my surprise it was accepted and published without comment, and went on to be nominated for a young readers choice award by the Ontario Library Association. The novel remained on high school reading lists for over 10 years with many young people reading that verse every year. God used it in a way I hadn’t anticipated and I was thrilled.
Oops, wrong verse – 31!
I am no man of letters,
and thereby hangs a tale.
I write because it’s better
than going back to jail.
I am quite fond of drinking
and my attention span is low,
so I get to thinking,
“How fast will this thing go?”
Storytelling’s a distraction,
much to Barb’ refief,
with this main attraction:
I only give characters grief.
It’s an opportunity for munificence,
and besides, they took my license.
love your laugh-out-loud lines. Always fun and inspirational.
Claire, thank you so much. You just made my day!
No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money–Samuel Johnson. (I’m at it again, ha, ha, ha!)
Looks like you covered it! Created for this…cannot NOT do it.
I write for the same reason Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell ran: When his sister asked Eric why he ran so much he said something like, “The Lord made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.”
Well, when I write, I feel God’s pleasure.
I write for the children, their hearts and minds are being stolen in a world of entertainment, dark themes and political agendas. The gentle joy of discovering the beauty of God’s world around them and the example of supportive, loving family life is the call on my life to bring good books to them. I am in the middle of publishing my first chapter book with a picture book version following. May God reach their hearts with the truth and joy of real life handled with faith and care, may the parents feel the support with these writings to not give up in nurturing them, be drawn to our Creator who loves them and has given His life for them. May they be encourged to follow their own dreams, discovery what their Heavenly Father has created them to do. “Children are the living messges we send to a time we will not see.” John W. Whitehead. How true! Blessing. H
Your words resonate deeply. Thank God for your gift and your mission.
You are welcome–God is a healing God, and we praise Him for the gift we have of words, may we fill our hearts with believing all HIs promises to us..His love to you and surround you and keep us in His perfect peace…
Bob, I love your list. I’d like to add a few more reasons that I write:
– to convey some truths I’ve learned along the way.
– by writing, I am myself transformed.
– to learn the art of using words to impact the world.
This is great! I’ll go with all of the above. With so many voices, our writing can reach multitudes for Christ regardless of genre.
Wonderful, enlightening post. I especially connect with the idea that I learn as I write. This happens without any intention on my part. My thinking about God, about others, about myself, all is deepened. Also, writing helps as part of healing. Thank you.
Bob, I can relate to most of your list, but I believe the driving force behind me is the sense of commitment I feel to as Paul says, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts. 20:24. I believe God has given me stories and opportunities to write and I must fulfill my purpose by doing so.
Excellent list, Bob! Can’t improve on it, but one reason I write is because “words mean things.” After all, you can’t improve on Jesus (“in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Also, I write because I can speak my mind much better with my fingers and keyboard than by talking. I have always written, going back to elementary school. I also write to set the record straight: I publish in the craft world and there’s a lot of “Wild West” crazy instruction out there and I feel compelled to strike that stuff down with sound rules. Enough said. Thanks again!
Rachael M Colby
I answered this question during your class, The Well-rounded Writer, at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, but here it is again:
I write to glorify God, to encourage believers, and reach the lost.
And here is my poem which I wrote in response to Jerry B Jenkins’ blog post, Writer: Do You Really Know Your ‘Why’?
The Why of Why I Write
Why do I breathe?
How can I not?
It’s in me
It’s who I am
It’s what He has called me to.
Sometimes it’s how I speak to Him,
Praying on paper.
Sometimes it’s how He answers
When He does, He tells me,
“Write this down.”
Lest I forget
So others may know Him
So He may be glorified
When the going is good
So He may be glorified
When life is bitter
To give others hope
For He takes trash,
And makes it into treasure
Because I must
—Rachael M Colby
Love your list, Bob. Enjoyed your class at Blue Ridge and thank you for your posts which encourage and equip, and for your amusing Tweets. God bless you as you, “bathe your writing in prayer.” 🙂
Great list (and btw I love everyone’s responses, too).
It’s hard to improve on the list, Bob.
I pray that my writing will not reach just the choir (as I was wisely told), but those who God’s Word may touch.
Since I am revising, I have a grammar nazi who is not a Christian. She gets to read the Gospel message over and over… and over.
My latest revision of a non-Christian MC is a slow-progression of the dawning of a message. The love interest asks her if she is going to heaven. She’s crook so, well, you can imagine her reaction. My favorite line I am happy to have included is:
‘I could peddle a box of jellyfish as a child-friendly ocean toy, so what is he trying to sell me with the Christianity stuff? Become some sort of robotic Stepford wife? No, thank you.’
There are others, but it takes getting shot to move her closer to God. As getting shot, near death, may.
I can relate to all of them, especially the laughing and crying.
John de Sousa
I LOVE THIS!
I could read this over and over, daily for encouragement and affirmation!
I can identify with all of these, especially the first six.
Ann L Coker
I enjoy the struggle of writing. Yes.
I write for the opportunity to glorify God and lead others closer to Him.
Thought I might slip this in at the end of the conversation.
A couple of reasons I write –
1) As a cautionary tale; do NOT try to live with two kinds of terminal cancer without medical care or pain control. I do have a good reason – no insurance, and I don’t want to yoke Barb to a lifetime of debt – but this is really hard. I’m trained (expensively) to control pain in the worst of circumstances (your tax dollars at work!), but in the past few weeks, I’m overwhelmed. Don’t DO this.
2) That said, life is still worth living, and faith is still real, but you’ve got to be intentional about it. “Abba, Daddy!” doesn’t work; the Via Dolorosa does.
3) Your quality of life depends on you.
Here endeth the lesson. I really need a cold beer.
So that’s it. So sorry, Andrew. Heroic of you.
Catherine, thank you so much for this.
It doesn’t feel heroic; it’s where God has placed me, and it’s my job to report it accurately, and keep up the spirits of those around me.
And I am so blessed, with a wife who loves me, a pack of dogs (all rescues) who feed my heart, a roof over my head, indoor plumbing, a source of cheap Rip-It energy rinks, a microwave, and Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee ravioli, which is about all I can eat now.
And wonder upon wonders, a community, here, in which I have a home and a voice (talking and interacting with people in the ‘real’ is pretty tough now).
What a truly wonderful life I have, and, metaphorically, how can I keep from singing?
Have three. And one for me (since I can’t stand beer and don’t drink anywho).
no military benefits? medicaid?
Claire, I’ll take the three beers!
I worked as a contactor, so there are no benefits. Seemed like a good idea at the time, and I would not change it. Got to go to a lot of places uniforms never saw, met fascinating people, and…well, you now the end of that line.
Barb makes too much for Medicaid, but not enough to have a worthwhile ACA plan (one that doesn’t have a crushing eductible). There’s always that hole in the safety net.
I am so sorry to hear this. 🙁 You are perhaps the only person I know who could deal with this without treatment, with God’s help. And I know you have many days when ‘dealing with it’ is not even available to you. My constant prayers brother.
I’ll bring a pony pack. That’s for you. I’ll have the lemonade.
Dear Claire, you have warmed my heart this night!
I truly don’t resent what’s happening. It’s God’s will, and while I may not see the Big Picture, I trust Him…and know that He has trusted ME to carry a mesage of hope from Downtown Hell.
Tonight it’s rather hard to breathe, with malignant lymph nodes trying to swell my windpipe shut, but each breath I manage carries Jesus’ name.
I’m honoured, and I would not change a single thing.
I think we all have from time to time our personal Hell, but if you don’t mind, I’ll skip your particular area of Hades, my hell was bad enough and I wasn’t very pleasant to God.
More beer, yeah, Claire!
Funny thing…I recently read that Jesus probably did drink a form of beer, since non-fermented drinks weren’t storable, and wine was pretty expensive back then.
well then it musta been a lot better than the swill we’ve got now. The miracle less spoken of? lol
ok my dear bro I am off to do something like fix a typo or ten thousand.
may you sleep sweetly and without pain
What a beautiful list, Bob! Here are a few of my reasons:
– To draw close to God.
– To get in touch with my soul.
– To share my soul.
– To explore.
– To create.
– Because (via my father) my DNA seems to compel me to write.
That was great, Bob. I write to give people with mental illness (and their loved ones) hope in the Lord. And yes, it is so much fun to be published, too.
Your list covers the bases well. I found myself nodding, smiling, and agreeing as I read. So, why do I write? Partly because I write better than I speak, so I’m more confident that my words may be meaningful. I write because God gifted me with the ability to do so and I want to honor Him. And, perhaps for those deep thoughts that are so hard to verbalize, writing is the only way to let them out.
Katherine’s comment above reminded me of something. When my husband lovingly chides me for not being aware of my surroundings, I tell him I was busy thinking deep thoughts. Isn’t that what writers do? We think deep thoughts, then express them best in writing.
Your inspiring, honest and thoughtful statement helps me see why writing is such a priority in my life. Your list resonates with me and motivates me to keep at it. I am amazed that something so simple can be so profound.
Sheri Dean Parmelee
I write because I can’t NOT write.