Does an author’s motive for writing a story affect the quality of the end result?
Or, looked at from a writer’s perspective: Why do I write? Why does anyone write? Is any one reason better than another?
I’ve asked myself these things many times and never settled on an answer I like. A part of me thinks, what does it matter why you write? Yet somehow I sense the answer’s important and so I keep asking.
Below is only a partial list of reasons authors choose to write:
- purely to entertain themselves
- to escape their own world
- to entertain others
- to help, educate, or enlighten others
- they feel they have something important to say
- to become rich and famous
- to understand themselves through the stories and characters they create
- to prove to themselves/others that they can do it
- for love of the creative process, the feeling of being ‘in flow’
- they love mastering new skills
- to expose wrongs/truths
- to record history
- to see their name on a book in a bookstore
- to share their feelings with others, to communicate what’s inside them
- to create experiences in their imagination that don’t exist in their own lives
- to live vicariously through their characters
- for the sense of power they feel as controllers of their own fictitious world
- to have a lasting impact on the world
I’m sure others could add to this list. The question I’m asking is… From a reader’s point of view, considering the quality of the finished product, is any one of these author motivations better than another?
Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic, whenever she hears an author say they wrote their book to help others, her reaction is, ‘Oh, please, don’t.’
Marketing gurus advise authors to write to the market. Creativity experts say if you aren’t passionate about your story it’ll show and anything less is being untrue to oneself as an artist.
James Scott Bell takes a middle-of-the-road approach, telling writers to find the sweet spot where their personal passion intersects with marketability.
But in the end does it makes any difference? Even the most egotistical creator who wants nothing but to see their name in lights can still create something of value, can’t they? Possibly even something extraordinary.
Most classical musicians I know simply love the music they’re playing and want to share it with others. At the same time there are those (and I have to admit they’re mostly violinists!) who thrive on standing center stage, being applauded by adoring audiences. Taken to extreme you get the egotistical rock star who cares little for the music itself and wants only to be worshipped by fans.
Whether an author writes for self-entertainment, to make millions, enlighten others, or change the world, does it matter to the reader?
Right now I’m leaning toward the answer: anyone who writes for any reason can produce a story others would want to read. But don’t hold me to that! I might change my mind.
I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this. Readers and writers alike!