Monday, March 14, 2005

why you write

Writers, it is said, write for one of the following reasons:

For themselves (and while I would instinctively label it "masturbatory", this mode does imply a somewhat "purer" form of writing, if you subscribe to such notions in this post-post-post modern age);

For a specific audience (and therefore, purpose or agenda); and

To Change The World (caps mine, because of the implied gravitas of that phrase).

In the first mode, it is tempting to simplify it as having authors who simply write what they want, damn the audience. If it finds an audience, then good. If not, then the audience of one (the author) is enough.

In the second mode, one could create an umbrella that includes writing with a specific target audience, articulating an agenda with the goal of converting a number of readers, and writing for a specific purpose (say, writing crime noir for purpose of selling crime noir books and thus making money).

In the third mode, we have people whose world-changing agenda is (obviously) paramount and believe that they can, in fact, change the world with words.

None of the three are absolute, and certainly one can argue about degrees of subscription to a particular mode (or even a mix of modes). And certainly, anybody can posit more reasons to write. But for me, these three elegantly cover what needs to be covered in terms of answering the question "Why do I write?".

I am not in possession of writerly abilities (or even the specific notion) of changing the world. I leave that to better men. I ended the self-possessed position of writing purely to masturbate a long time ago (though, like masturbation, it is not a bad thing, really). I locate myself in the second mode, writing for an audience (which includes myself) with a definite agenda, with determinable goals and reasons I am able to (somewhat) articulate.

Great literature is filled with examples of all three modes (and literature is not only about fiction of various lengths, poetry, and drama but also includes non-fiction works, essays, speeches, comic books, blogs, newspaper editorials, articles, publications, documentaries, scripts, tracks and other written material that provoke thought, entertain, anger, affect change - positive or otherwise- in manifold degrees on manifold matters, or simply communicate ideas - not only about the much-vaunted "human condition" but also about science, economics, politics, etc.) and that's the wonderful thing about the written word.

More soon.


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