I have been writing continually for about seven years without making any money at it so why do I continue?
It is a fair question. I don't think I'm very good at it (writing) and if earnings had anything to do with the assessment of my ability, I would be correct in that belief. However, like Sylvia Plath there is a certain internal drive encouraging me to write and it is there every day. Now I'm not going over again, the arguments I have put between creativity and commercialism. This post is simply about what makes writers do what they do.
George Orwell wrote quite a long piece on why he was a writer which is summed up in the opening paragraph,
"From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books."
American writer, Joan Didion, puts it quite succinctly saying that it gives access to her own mind.
I can understand that because while writing I am accessing my own thoughts and feelings.
Another American writer, Mary Gaitskill, has produced a number of thought provoking passages on the subject but the piece I can associate with is her take on stories.
Stories mimic life like certain insects mimic leaves and twigs. Stories are about all the things that might’ve, could’ve, or would’ve happened, encrowded around and giving density and shape to undeniable physical events and phenomena. They are the rich, unseen underlayer of the most ordinary moments.
I know that in my early life I wanted to write and tried poetry but only rarely. Ordinary working life was busy in those days and, as there are no guarantees about how successful one might become, the need to earn money had to come first. In the last ten years as the children have grown up and relationships fell apart, I found more time to put pen to paper and have enjoyed producing the ten, almost eleven, full length novels I've written.
Every now and again I have a new follower on Twitter or other social media who describe themselves as aspiring writers. My advice to them is stop aspiring - write!