It's no secret that most writers like to write about writing. It makes for very good procrastination on actual writing. And there's quite a bit of advice out there on how to write. But what about why to write? It might not be quite as practical in the short term. But in the long term, it's always good to be armed with properly cited quotes on why you write, for when you're faced with concerned relatives who want to know when you're going to get a "real job." So, for when your parents start sending you accounting school brochures, here are some quotes on why writers write.
On the one hand, it's too bad that so many writers need to justify their profession. I don't think anyone is following plumbers around, demanding to know why they plumb. Sometimes the question "why do you write?" can sound a lot more like a polite way of saying, "wouldn't you rather stop making things up and come work in this nice, warm office?" But on the other hand, writers are exceptionally talented when it comes to justifying total nonsense. Authors are more than capable of holding their own when faced with the question, "but really, why do you write?"
So here are some of the greatest writers on why they chose to write:
1. Write to amuse? What an appalling suggestion! I write to make people anxious and miserable and to worsen their indigestion.
― Wendy Cope, Serious Concerns
2. There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
3. If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.― Toni Morrison
4. If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.
― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
5. We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 5
6. Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
7. I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
8. I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head.
– Sylvia Plath, The Journals of Sylvia Plath
9. Writing is my way of expressing – and thereby eliminating – all the various ways we can be wrong-headed.”
– Zadie Smith, “On the Beginning,” The Guardian
10. Because I can’t seem to escape it. It’s a way for me to address and counter my questions about what it means to be human, or, in my case a Dominican human who grew up in New Jersey.
― Junot Diaz, Why I Write
11. If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad.
― Lord Byron, Lord Byron: Selected Letters and Journals
12. Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.
― Terry Pratchett, as quoted in Writing Your Nonfiction Book
13. A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.
― Roald Dahl, Boy