Why we write what we write

Man Reading Book and Sitting on Bookshelf in LibraryJust like most writers out there in the twenty-first century, I follow a number of writer/author groups and blogs.  I suspect, though, that I follow far fewer than many writers.  I believe we need to spend more time writing than talking about writing; but that’s just me.  Apart from the extreme time suck involved in participation in these online groups, one of the other primary reasons for my reluctance to get more involved is because I really don’t find that many kindred spirits in them.  Perhaps that shouldn’t matter to me, but it does.

For example, just this morning, I received an email from a LinkedIn site that I follow in a general kind of way.  A participant in the discussion posted the following gem as a discussion starter:

“I want to embark on fiction but I just do not have the imagination to concoct stories and plots. Can anyone share with me how successful novelists repeatedly fabricate stories?”

Now, I would expect bona fide writers on this forum to weigh in as follows: If you have no imagination and no stories to tell, you clearly shouldn’t write fiction. End of story.  But, no, that’s not what they said.

One actually started his response by saying that it was a great question.  A great question?  Are you kidding? It is a moronic question in my view and epitomizes what’s wrong with open access to publishing.  There are so many people out there today who actually do have stories to tell and can’t get them published that I shudder to think what will happen to the literary world when self-published books become nothing more than the yearnings of wannabe fiction writers who really want to have written a book – not to actually write one.

Another “writer” suggested to the poster without imagination that he simply mine his own life.  That should be good.  No imagination needed there, I guess.

Someone else told him to read.  Another told him to take a ride on public transport – in response to the very astute comment of one responder who actually had the temerity to say, “If you lack the imagination…why start?”  Bravo to that honest writer who is like me.  What a surprise it was for me to find a like-minded writer in an online forum.

What I want to know is why someone wants to write fiction if he has no story to tell and admits upfront that he lacks imagination.   All the creative thinking suggestions in the world will not help if there is no imagination to carry an idea through.

Arthur Schopenhauer thought a lot about writing and why we write.
Arthur Schopenhauer thought a lot about writing and why we write.

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer probably had it right in The Art of Literature when he said, “There are, first of all, two kinds of authors: those who write for the subject’s sake, and those who write for writing’s sake. […] The truth is that when an author begins to write for the sake of covering paper, he is cheating the reader; because he writes under the pretext that he has something to say.”  People can write whatever they want and I encourage them to do so.  Much of what we write, however, should not be published.

I think that there are people who truly want to write because they have something they want to say, and those who simply want to have written a book.  The former makes a life –even if it doesn’t’ pay the bills.  The latter makes for good cocktail hour conversation.

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