General

Why Write?

Why am I bothering with this?

It is a question that I ask myself pretty much daily (numerous times per day at that), and it only takes a momentary dent in confidence, energy or creativity for me to really doubt whether any of it is worth it at all. But I think these moments are necessary to allow time to reflect, review and re-evaluate what is that writing allows.

I went through a similar process with my PhD thesis last year: periods of productivity would quickly be crippled by an unwelcome and vicious wave of doubt. Suddenly even just trying to gather thoughts together would only result in the feeling of hitting a brick wall. I now know, having managed to come through that process successfully, that this rollercoaster of emotions cycling swiftly between determination and demoralisation can be ridden; it can be beaten.

The main issues that arise relate to the chances of success, of producing something that you can be proud of. When you’re working purely from what is going on in your own head, there is little chance for external verification, and the thought of actually seeking that out is a harrowing and nasty one that I see as a bigger duel for myself than the actual writing process itself. It is a horrible cycle, where fear of releasing something to gain feedback inhibits your drive to get on with writing, which in turn means there is nothing to release anyway.

It is easier, I find, not to acknowledge these thoughts about potential success – well, as much as possible. I’m not expecting anything to come from any of the stories I’m writing; I’m writing them because they’re in my head, swirling around the murky depths of my brain and developing into plots and scenes and characters that I need to expel, but at the same time that I want to preserve. I want to expel them, because I want new ideas to take their place and have room to grow in the same way that they have. I want new ideas to develop because the process is exciting. The process is exciting because I enjoy it. Writing them down allows all of this. It sparks creativity more than even my best periods of day-dreaming and imagining. It is the enabler. The writing must happen.

There are times when everything clicks. It all starts falling into place and you can’t help but wonder what it would be like to be able to write full-time, for a living. And if that happens, then what next? All I (and the true geek within me) know is there are people out there right now who are being paid to come up with and write narratives for Star Wars games. How awesome would that be? I think it is probably more likely that aliens arrive from some distant planet tomorrow, but to have that thought in the back of my head helps with motivation. Each word, each short story, each novel… it could lead to something. It most probably won’t get anywhere close to that level, but then if everyone thought like that then where would be today?

Returning to the original question of why I am bothering, I find that when this pops into my head I quickly juggle each of these things: the past experience of having written something so gargantuan and intimidating as a PhD thesis; the thought that I’m not writing any one thing with expectations of success or glory, and finally the distant, shining star of hope of what could, ultimately, be an end result. Balancing those lost two is especially tricky. Having a dream, a desire, and keeping it in check enough to distance any one thing from it seems completely illogical and nonsensical. But I am convinced it helps. If it is to happen, then how am I to know which idea will spring into life, capture the minds of others and drive me to that point? I can’t plan that. And so, to me, it makes sense just to assume that nothing in particular is being done for that goal. It will just be a very nice side-effect. If it happens, it happens. What will be, will be.

In the meantime, I’ll be writing. Mostly this will just be for me, to clear my head of thoughts and ideas, to get them down on paper and make sense of them myself. If I share them it won’t be because I think they’re wonderful, it will be because I feel I’m at the point where I can take the next tentative step on this slow journey. Possibly the most daunting step of all.

Chris Phethean is a writer and blogger. He is working on a range of sci-fi, fantasy and adventure stories, and dreams of writing interactive narratives for video games. Find him on and Twitter.

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2 thoughts on “Why Write?

  1. “Sometimes only paper will listen to you.”

    It’s by an unknown author, but that is an ideal motto for life.

    Some of you may not know this, but I’m still in School. Like, your school is one building, you go to a locker between classes, etc.

    I also go to a public school.

    Let’s just say that the kids are… Not Ideal. Even my friends are different. They don’t write.

    I mean, I have friends, but they aren’t the same as me, They aren’t the sort of if-I-can’t-write-I’m-gonna-die kind of people.

    Those friends live far away.

    I can start this post with a mini-story.

    In a​ NaNoWriMo Virtual Write in, I met a girl who, like me, loved writing essays.

    I had never met someone like that before.

    At that same Write-in, I met someone who was interested in reading my story. Like, that sounds awesome. Of course, my family is like that, but it isn’t the same.

    But, as William Faulkner once said, If a story is in you, it has got to come out. And, A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit (Richard Bach) I may not become a professional writer, but I do have a story in me, and that is why I write.

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