I saw another blog recently on this topic, and thought I’d add my own slant. Why do writers write? The simple answer, of course, is that we write because we can’t stop.
The more complex answer is that nobody really knows why some of us seem to be born storytellers. We’re the ones who watch the world, not to study it scientifically, but to weave tales out of it. We take the stuff of our lives and spin it out in different colors to amuse and educate our fellow humans.
I started telling stories as soon as I was old enough to realize that I could get the attention of the adults around me in such a fashion. I memorized jokes and riddles and even humorous stories to trot out at the dinner table, or share with friends of my parents. I don’t remember the exact moment I understood that I didn’t have to parrot such things, that I could write my own stories, but once I started, I wasn’t able to stop.
As with most young artists, my first works were copies of what I was reading or watching at the time. Today they call it fan-fiction. It’s a good way to learn how to write (or paint, or sculpt). You can see what works in a story and what doesn’t. The characters and universe are already invented, and if you pay attention, you can see how the original author lays out a plot or creates believable dialogue.
Studying the work of the masters is something all successful writers do, even after they start selling their own work. I read Westerns and mysteries, not only because I enjoy the tales, but also to see how other authors handle their ideas. The only problem with being a writer is that you really notice the mistakes another writer makes, whether it’s shoddy research or poor editing. But usually, you learn a lot by studying the way they write.
I haven’t been able to stop writing, even after all these years, because I never seem to run out of story ideas. Anything that happens to me, anything I see or hear or otherwise experience, can trigger a “what if?” moment. What if that “road rage” temper tantrum from the guy in the car behind me was directed at someone who was actually an alien pretending to be human? What if someone from the past could see a smart phone? What if Chance loves experimenting with exotic food, but Kye is a meat-and-potatoes man? There’s no end.
I have no more idea why I am compelled to tell stories than why one of my best friends is compelled to draw, and another is compelled to study physics. There’s something hard-wired into the human mind that needs to tell and hear stories. We’ve been sitting around swapping tales since we learned to talk – and who’s to say that other primates, or maybe the cetaceans, aren’t storytellers right along with us?