Why do writers write? Anyone who’s ever sworn at a blinking cursor has asked herself that question at some point. Or at many, many points. ~ Meredith Maran
In Why We Write, twenty authors answer that question. Below are quotations from six of their essays.
I write because in 1962 I put in my application for a job working at the children’s department at Sears, and they never called me back…. Seriously, I write because it’s all I know how to do. Writing is my anchor and my purpose. My life is informed by writing, whether the work is going well, or I’m stuck in the hell of writer’s block, which I’m happy to report only happens about once a day. ~ Sue Grafton, author of A Is for Alibi through Y Is for Yesterday
I’m really not qualified to do anything else. At this point it’s so much a part of my life that I can’t not do it. If I don’t work I go crazy. And frankly, I have a family, and I need the money. ~ James Frey, author of The Final Testament of the Holy Bible
If writing were illegal, I’d be in prison. I can’t not write. It’s a compulsion. ~David Baldacci, author of The Innocent
The only thing that makes me crazier than writing is not writing. ~ Sarah Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
I write to dream; to connect with other human beings; to record; to clarify; to visit the dead. I have a kind of primitive need to leave a mark on the world. Also, I have a need for money. ~ Mary Karr, author of Lit
I write because I swear to God I don’t know how to do anything else. ~ Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto
This week my cousin Ann found something I wrote when I was about ten years old. It announces the engagement of her cat, Tommy, to Miss Kittie Kay Kat, and marked my entry into the world of journalism a la community goings-on columns in small town newspapers.
Relative legibility is courtesy of Mrs. Bessie Fricke, a marvelous fourth-grade teacher, who gave every student in class (except Bernard and Patricia) a B in handwriting the first six weeks, and spurred me to practice my cursive every day after school so that wouldn’t happen again.
So why do I write? Considering that I did this of my own free will, just for fun, I guess, like Mr. Baldacci, et al., I can’t not write.
And please forgive me, but I can’t not share this.
Note: The date of the wedding, October twelfth, happens to be Ann’s birthday. She’s a year minus twelve days younger than I. Along with her older sister, Sally, we rode bicycles and horses, swam in the river, and renovated an old chicken house–painted the outside white and pasted newspapers on the inside walls–to use as a clubhouse. I don’t remember having many meetings there.
Tommy Barber was an orange tabby. He didn’t have a middle name, but people in engagement announcements always have them, so I gave him one.
KAT-BARBER ENGAGEMENT ANNOUNCEMENT
Mr. and Mrs. Alley Kat announce the engagement of their daughter, Kitty Kay, to Mr. Tommy Len Barber.
Miss Kat was the Fish Queen of 1960 and served as Duchess in the Trout Sellers’ Festival in 1961. Kitty Kay attended Kittie Kapers Elementary School and graduated from Catwell’s Girls’ High School. She attended the Feline Women’s College where she majored in English. Then she entered Katley Acting School, where she starred in “The Rat Trap.” Kitty Kay graduated from Cat Carson’s Finishing School in May of 1963. She is now employed as a secretary at Fishington Fish Markets, Inc.
Tommy Len Barber attended Cat Carver Elementary and later Kitolene High School. He entered Carvard University and was then employed at Cape Catnaperal . He is presently employed as a detective with the Fentress Cat Patrol for the Extermination of Rats and Mice.
The wedding will be held at the First Methodist Church in Fentress at eight o’clock in the evening on October the twelfth. The reception will be held in the church parlor.
Meredith Maran, ed. Why We Write: Twenty Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do. New York: Plume, 2013.