Why do writers write?
Is it to leave a legacy? To begin a conversation across distances? To fulfill the desire to tell a story that can positively effect someone? To challenge ourselves, put into practice what we learn about the craft? To discover or uncover new information or hidden agendas? to learn something we didn’t know before writing on the subject? As a creative outlet for emotions?
Do we write because we simply enjoy expressing ourselves? Because we have an innate need? Are we so full of words, ideas, or stories that we have to get them out? Or do we write because the voices in our heads drive us crazy if we don’t?
Ask a dozen writers, you’ll get a hundred reasons. But there is one reason at the core of it all.
Writers write to express a personal or universal truth. Even, and perhaps especially, fiction writers.
In Literature class and books or workshops on the writing craft, this is often called the “theme.” Christian writing circles may refer to it as the “spiritual takeaway.”
Many a student has cringed when a Literature teacher asked the class to find the theme of a poem, short story, or classic novel. Writers are often encouraged to begin with a theme and grow the story around it—without beating readers over the head with it, of course. One instruction manual admonished that, if you don’t know the theme of your book, you need to start over.
The thing is, every writer is as unique in her approach to story construction as stories themselves are unique. She may start with a character, an event/circumstance, a setting, an odd relationship, or a truth.
My first novel began with a question which stemmed from the circumstance I was battling. “How can a person still have a purpose when illness has made meaningful work (contribution to society) impossible?”
In this case, the writing led to the truth (theme) the book ultimately expressed. “God’s light shines brightest through cracked lanterns.” Or, it is through our brokenness (physical or a broken past) that His glory is most clearly visible.
If the writer is open to His leading, God inspires even stories written for entertainment with a grain of truth He wishes that writer to convey. A great deal has been said about staying authentic to the character, setting, or time period of a written work. In my view, staying authentic to the God-inspired truth is the key to a believable story.
The greatest calling (or complement) I can imagine as a writer is to hear God say…
Look, I am making everything new…. Write this, because these words are true and can be trusted. (Revelation 21:5 NCV)
May all my words, in life or literature, be true and trustworthy.
What truths in books or stories have impacted you?
***NOTE: Special thanks to author Rebecca Bergren for her contributions to the reasons listed in this post. Rebecca writes quirky, contemporary fiction with a hint of steampunk/time travel, heartwarming screenplays, and humorous short pieces. Visit her on Facebook