15 Reasons To Write Fiction

Last September Dwight Garner published an essay in the New York Times Sunday Magazine where he grouses about certain authors (Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, Donna Tartt, Michael Chabon, et al.) who, in his view, go “too long” between books.


Here he’s complaining about not enough books when imho far too many books are being written and published.  I go in a bookstore and am overwhelmed with more books anyone could ever read, or want to read, or need to read.

In fact, going into a bookstore often has the effect of making me stop writing altogether, at least temporarily.  It’s temporary because the fact is that being a writer means you gotta write and that if you don’t write you go a little nutso and that therefore you plug away whether or not publishing ever becomes a part of the picture.

Some days, though, this reasoning doesn’t cut it.  Days I read a Really Fantastic Book that makes me ooze with admiration and envy and, let’s face it, self-loathing.  I could never write anything like that, I mutter.  Maybe you, dear reader, sometimes feel like this, too. 

Which makes me wonder:  Why do we even bother?

I pondered and, for you, for me, compiled these 15 Reasons To Write Fiction.  (Some are better than others.)

  1. You never outgrew having imaginary friends.  Fiction-writing makes it okay for you to spend vast amounts of time in the company of made-up people.
  2. You want to “leave something behind.”  Sounds grandiose yet easier than you think.  Throw something on a website (better, several websites).  It will be there a long time.
  3. You want to “say something new.”  Not that you will but you think you will and that’s all that counts.  Ha.
  4. You “have a novel in you.”  Ew.  You do?  That must be uncomfortable.
  5. You seek revenge.  Maybe memoir is better for this but you can get a lot of satisfying knife-in-the-back-twisting via fiction, too.  Try it.  It’s fun.
  6. You want to give pleasure.  Yes yes yes.  Writing that entertains, enlightens, consoles, or educates is worth the pixels/paper it’s written on.
  7. You want to share your wisdom.  Old people are the most likely to go this route.  It’s probably harmless.
  8. You want to express yourself.  I’ve never really understood this one, but it’s very popular.
  9. You seek escape from your banal and mind-numbingly boring life.  Related to reason #1.  And, I think, a perfectly valid motive to write.  Who are you hurting, really?  Bonus: Writing does not require a lot of costly gear.
  10. You want to make a lot of money.  This has to be the saddest reason.  Are you nuts?
  11. You want to change the world. Not as sad as reason #10.  But still–are you nuts?
  12. You seek fame.  That’s nice.  Maybe you can be famous for making a lot of money and changing the world.
  13. You want to create something beautiful.  Most commendable.  The cool thing is, you can combine this reason with reasons #1 through #8.  Also #14.
  14. You better understand the world and life when you labor to put it down on paper.  Not bad.  Pretty good, really.  I like it.
  15. You want to make yourself happy, or at least not sad.  Maybe it is this simple, after all.

Of course you don’t really need a reason to write.  But on days you do, some of the above may help.

6 Responses to “15 Reasons To Write Fiction”

  1. Lynn Says:

    I do think I have disabused myself of many of the unrealistic reasons–which leaves 13-15 which seem worthy or at least not harmful. Of course making a well-crafted gem that gets rejected a few dozen times just might lead to #16: You write because you are self-deluded, but that takes us a whole different direction and my guess is, that way lies insanity.
    Thanks, Karen, for your clear-sightedness.

  2. Dino Says:

    For me it’s an old goal I have yet to score and I don’t want to leave life until it’s satisfied — can’t leave the work undone, might have to answer for it on the other side.

  3. Erika Mitchell Says:

    I think reasons 1 and 9 are my primary motivations. I love transcribing the imaginary conversations of the people in my head, and sometimes a housewife’s just got to imagine barreling across the hood of a car guns blazing, you know?

  4. Mary Casey Says:

    This post made me and my imaginary friends laugh out loud. It’s definitely #1 for us, me.

  5. Karen Burns Says:

    Hmm, Erika and Mary, you just made me think of another reason: I am always running scenarios in my head. Imaginary conversations, yes. Imaginary situations–if that, then this.

    I guess we need an outlet for all this madness. . . . .

  6. Mary Casey Says:

    And Dino–if you’re who I think you are–you have piles of stories as well as a novella and a novel or two you can put into print while you’re working on your latest project. Not to rush you to the other side! Just to encourage you to print and bind your work if you’re not going the traditional publishing route.

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