Why write?: An extrapolation on truth

Why? Why indeed... (The Transcendence of the Ego by Derrick Tyson)
So I was window-shopping on Amazon. The term "window-shopping" still applies in the case of e-commerce, in my mind, mostly because the box that your looking at with all the neat things on it is called a "window" in the vernacular of my operating system; so there!

Anyway, like I said, I was window shopping on Amazon when a ran across a titillating book called "Divergent" by Veronica Roth, a book you probably have heard of. Based on the blurb, it sounds like an awesome, very Rodman Philbrick's "Last Book in the Universe" type yarn.

In the product blurb on the Amazon page, I saw a little Q & A between an unknown interviewer and Roth, and the first question hooked me; it was a peice of writing advice, and I love reading writing advice. Here it is:

"Q: What advice would you offer to young aspiring writers, who long to live a success story like your own?

Roth: One piece of advice I have is: Want something else more than success. Success is a lovely thing, but your desire to say something, your worth, and your identity shouldn’t rely on it, because it’s not guaranteed and it’s not permanent and it’s not sufficient. So work hard, fall in love with the writing—the characters, the story, the words, the themes—and make sure that you are who you are regardless of your life circumstances. That way, when the good things come, they don’t warp you, and when the bad things hit you, you don’t fall apart.

This is a piece of advice that I hear alot and I agree with it entirely. Even the very famous authors who stay famous all the time, like King or Tad Williams or Brandon Sanderson, don't typically chase the fame: they just love to write the book. Writing is a means to itself, for the some of the "truly great". Writing must be an end to itself if the writer is to keep writing, so I have been told.

But, me, when I go to adopt this advice, immediately run into a question common to the human experience...

"What's in it for me?"

Theoretically, the question is answered: What in it for me if I write? Writing, that's what! But not every part of my brain can by that line.

I mean, if sentiment were enough, I except there would be far less greed in the world. PArt of my mind sits as an old, balding, stogie-breathing corporate warrior, wondering how in the world I'm going to justify all the purported hard ache and pain of writing when I am nearly guaranteed NOT to make any money? Yet another part of my mind, inherited from my father who has accomplished more in a decade than some do in a lifetime, wonders, sadly, why I'm giving up on the fame that obviously quite a few people have gained? Suddenly, the craft become vulnerable to doubt, to pragmatism, to creature comfort. I could just playing video games and roleplaying games instead of forcing myself to write. Non-writer life become easier, and perhaps, even more rewarding.

But again, I have not said that Roth's advice isn't the same sagacious wisdom that has been passed down from generation to generation. It's true, and it works, but for me, and perhaps for others, its complicated to implement.

So, why write for "nothing"?

The logical extension of Roth's advice is that there are going to be some people who go through the sweat, blood and tears of writing and won't see one red cent for their trouble, at its most extreme. We could declare that "Writing for nothing", since the world is mostly concerned with concrete, real, material gains, like money, or at least "social gains" which have no basis in matter but are powerful, such as fame. Someone might be out there who churns out great tales like Hobb or Kenyon or anyone else on a bookshelf and won't be recognized by the first or last name, even if coupled with their bestselling work.

What could possibly motivate those people who do, in fact write for this "nothing" we are talking about? Could it be that they are creating world's to share with others? What if nobody buys the book: then the world is not shared. Is it for the love of creating characters? Why can't one do that in the comfort of their own home, in their own mind? Is it because they just have to? That sounds more like a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder than a rationale.

When I ask myself what would make me struggle to create 100 novels, sans money and recognition, first thing that comes to my mind is "books on a shelf." Fully, the line of logic is "I want to draft, revise to infinity, design and market books because I want to be able to say 'I have published 100 novels.'" That might put me in the "vanity publishing" category of writers, as opposed to the "I want to tell the world my views" or "I want to sway public opinion through fiction", but it seems to be a good enough reason to work at this.

Then again, I can also say that I, too, want to be able to say my piece to the world, or, even better, be able to speculate freely and take old idea to a new conclusion. Maybe that's why I like speculative fiction: the "what-if" questions are so engrossing: "What if hospitals became automated?" "What would a space-barbarian's life be like?" "What if class-warfare existed in Heaven?".

Can it be that fame and fortune find those who don't seek it, but instead seek to create something truly beautiful? I know alot of people who would not believe that, because they do not believe that Harry Potter or Twilight or Hunger Games or 50 Shades of Grey are high quality books. I always wonder how one can say that if so many people are satisfied with them? Marketing alone doesn't seem to be enough, especially in the case of much maligned 50 Shades, which became popular in an underground sense before it was picked up, as far as I understand. That I constantly hear "Its the most horrible book I ever read," which tells me that though it was bad, I'll agree with them there, it was still engrossing enough for someone to finish it. I also typed in "worst fantasy books" into google, and found a discussion on Good Reads that lists luminaries like Tad Williams and Terry Brooks among the worst authors in Fantasy: which is mind-boggling to me because others would claim those same two authors as gods among writers! How can one judge quality based on reviews if this sort of "you-love-em-or-you-hate-em" type system?

And if I did, as I said, write 100 novel just for the sake of speculating on things 100 times, and wrote good novels, good as judged by me and mine at least, then have I gained anything? I have lost lots of time, maybe some happiness. I have gained a bragging point on my tombstone, and personal fulfillment/self-actualization. Is self-actualization enough in a world of money?

Maybe its not about me. Maybe its about how I make people feel with the writing: to be able to give that same high that I have felt to even just one person, man-tossing-clams kind of thing. Maybe it is writ in God's divine plan for me to writ my own stuff, after all I started early, seven years old with my first itty-bitty children's book that the teacher thought was beautiful, and the 50 or so pages I wrote for what still will be a novel one day when I was 13. Maybe its a compulsory thing like sex, greed, violence, or baking: my brain is just wired that way.

So now, I ask the writers of the world, if you don't chase the limelight or the cheddar, what are you chasing? Why? Why write?
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