Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Why Writers Write

In her book Negotiating with the Dead--A Writer on Writing, the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood culls writerly interviews, autobiographies, overheard conversations, novels and other sources in compiling a list of reasons that various writers have cited for why they do what they do:

To record the world as it is. To set down the past before it is all forgotten. To excavate the past because it has been forgotten. To satisfy my desire for revenge. Because I knew I had to keep writing or else I would die. Because to write is to take risks, and it is only by taking risks that we know we're alive. To produce order out of chaos. To delight and instruct. To please myself. To express myself. To express myself beautifully. To create a perfect work of art. To reward the virtuous and punish the guilty; or--the Marquis de Sade defense used by ironists--vice versa. To hold a mirror up to nature. To hold a mirror up to the reader. To paint a portrait of society and its ills. To express the unexpressed life of the masses. To name the hitherto unnamed. To defend the human spirit and human integrity and honor. To thumb my nose at death. To make money so my children could have shoes. To make money so I could sneer at those who formerly sneered at me. To show the bastards. Because to create is human. Because to create is godlike. Because I hated the idea of having a job. To say a new word. To make a new thing. To create a national conscience. To justify my failures in school. To justify my own view of myself and my life, because I couldn't be a writer unless I actually did some writing. To make myself appear more interesting than I actually was. To attract the love of a beautiful woman. To attract the love of any woman to at all. To attract thelove of a beautiful man. To rectify the imperfections of my miserable childhood. To thwart my parents. To spin a fascinating tale. To amuse and please the reader. To amuse and please myself. To pass the time, even though it would have passed anyway. Graphomania. Compulsive logorrhea. Because I was driven to it by some force outside my control. Because I was possessed. Because an angel dictated to me. Because I fell into the embrace of the Muse. Because I got pregnant by the muse and needed to give birth to a book. Because I had books instead of children. To serve Art. To serve the Collective Unconscious. To serve History. To justify the ways of God toward Man. To act out antisocial behavior for which I would have been punished in real life. To master a craft so I could generate texts. To subvert the establishment. To demonstrate that whatever is, is right. To experiment with new forms of perception. To create a recreational boudior so the reader could go into it and have fun. Because the story took hold of me and wouldn't let go. To search for understanding of the reader and myself. To cope with my depression. For my children. To make a name that would survive death. To defend a minority group or oppressed class. To speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. To expose appalling wrongs or atrocities. To record the times through which I have lived. To bear witness to horrifying events that I have survived. To speak for the dead. To celebrate life in all its complexity. To praise the universe. To allow for the possibility of hope and redemption. To give back something of what has been given to me.


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