[DISCUSSION] Do You Want to Write … Or Do You NEED to?

Why? Why do you write – because you want to, or because you need to?


When I hear writers, especially newer writers, summarize their aspirations, answers usually seem to have one thing in common: the word want.

I want to inspire others. I want to publish a novel. I want to start a blog.

Very rarely do I hear other writers describe the role of writing in their personal and/or professional lives as a need. I need to tell this story. I need to add my voice to the discussion. I need to write this down.

The problem, I believe, revolves around a completely different word: passion. You have a passion for writing; you have a passion for creating things.

I don’t think our definition of passion always matches up with what it actually means to be passionate about something. Passion is emotional; using it in a sentence generally implies we have a very strong desire for something. But at what point does passion give way to something else entirely: necessity?

I have not wanted to “be a writer” for a very long time. For much of my life, I have tried to turn away from that want. Wanting to write has always seemed so expected, so common, to me. I tried to go months at a time without writing anything once – no journal entries, no fiction, no blog posts; nothing. I tried, because I truly didn’t want it anymore. And it literally almost destroyed me. Because I don’t really want writing to be part of my life at all. It turns out, as I’ve learned the hard way, I personally need to.

I don’t need to write for a living or publish a book or have a successful blog or two; those are merely products of a much deeper need, for me, to create. To tell stories. It’s very hard to explain to non-writers why I’m still doing so much writing for free. It’s because not being able to get paid to do what I do, for the most part, doesn’t mean I can stop. Even if I wanted to stop, I’m not sure I could.

At some point, my passion for storytelling, my love of playing with words, became something more than that. One day, I just stopped defining writing as something I wanted to do. It’s very frustrating, as someone with a degree in writing, with many years of experience in writing, to accept the fact that no one wants to pay writers to do what they do. I cannot help it. Much of the time, I wish I were trained to do something else, because I chose a path and profession in which everyone wants to do the exact same thing I do. And separating the want from the need is not something that usually happens.

I don’t need recognition to do what I do, I don’t need praise, I don’t need most of what many others seem to so desperately want. What I need is to write – whatever, wherever, whenever. That doesn’t make me unique. It just makes me stubborn, productive and happy.

Writing, storytelling, to me, is not something you want. It’s either something you do, or you don’t do. Want implies that it might happen eventually; it might not. Need implies that it’s going to happen to matter what. I’m going to write this novel, I’m going to publish this blog post, I’m going to comment on this article – because, somewhere deep down, I know I just need to.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m too invested. But I’m far too committed to back out now.

Why do you write? Be honest! Is it your hobby? Your job? Does publishing stuff on the internet just make you happy for whatever reason? When did you figure out writing was something you wanted to pursue on your own time, instead of just to fulfill a school or work requirement?

This post was written as part of the Problogger: 7 Days to Getting Back Your Blogging Groove challenge. If you have been struggling to write the engaging, well-thought-out posts your blog is known for, or have abandoned your blog completely but are ready to get back into posting more regularly, consider joining the challenge today.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

18 thoughts on “[DISCUSSION] Do You Want to Write … Or Do You NEED to?

  1. I write because if I don’t get some of this stuff out of my head, I won’t have room for anything new. It’s a release that allows me to express myself in a way that I just won’t happen orally or otherwise. I do write for work but it’s drastically different than what I write personally, which I think helps me separate the two pretty easily. My passion for writing gets to be fulfilled in two different outlets, so I’m pretty lucky.

    1. Completely agree with you on the ‘getting stuff out of your head’ factor! When people ask me how to come up with more ideas – honestly – I just tell them to keep writing and more will come. :) Thanks for reading and commenting, and good luck with your future writing projects!

  2. My passion is finding ways to make the world a better, more beautiful place. And throughout my life I have been active in projects to help people in need, various kinds of need. Now that I am 74 years old I don’t have the physical ability to do what I once did. Yet I still need to be making a positive difference in someone’s life. I decided to try blogging as a way to inspire and guide others to make a positive difference. The problem seemed to be, however, getting readers. That is why I’m not participating in the Problogger Challenge. I’m hoping that more people will read my blog and leave feedback that helps me know what direction to take, how I might do a better job, what some think about what I write. My blog is at https.//peacewrk.blogspot.com. Check it out!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! I checked out your blog and I think it looks great! Looks like you’re still only a few months in – keep going! It took me about 5 years of on and off blogging until my traffic started to pick up – patience is key. :)

  3. I do a lot of personal writing in a journal that never makes it onto my blog. For me, that kind of writing is definitely a need. I have so many thoughts floating through my head. Journaling helps me process those thoughts and I have experienced so much personal growth through that emotional/mental processing. As far as blogging goes, I just love it! I want to become a public speaker some day, so professionally, it helps me prepare for that. It gives me the opportunity to explore topics I hope to speak about some day. And it helps me build up an audience / email list, for raising awareness. So in that sense, professionally, it’s a need. But it’s also a want. Because the more I blog, the more I love it! So yeah, I guess for me, it’s both. :-)

    1. It totally CAN be both! I also write in a few different places, journaling as well, and they all serve different purposes in my life. So glad you stopped by to read and comment! And good luck with your public speaking goals! :)

  4. I’ve noticed this message gets asked a lot on WordPress. I always say I need to write. All the stories and ideas inside my head are a part of me, and they need to come out. However, as usually, I am feeling like a failure as a writer. I don’t know why, but I always fail at everything I do. Writing seems to produce the same results.

  5. More a need than a want, but a bit of both. What I notice is that when I’m writing, I feel better – and it’s not just that I write when I’m feeling better, because I can feel terrible and writing gets me back on track. There are words and phrases and thoughts in me that need to get out!

    1. Same here! This is why I blog every day – honestly. Sometimes I have a really hard time getting my day started, but ALWAYS, as soon as I finish writing a post, I’m good to go for the rest of the day. Writing is like nourishment, sort of, weirdly.

  6. When I really think about it, I guess it is really a placing of wanting that most of my writing comes from. I want to share my experience with others, I want to encourage others to be better, I want to see others succeed. However, I do feel like I need to write, I need to get my voice out.

    1. Completely agree. For most writers, getting words out is their way of making themselves heard, and I think it’s amazing we can do that just by typing something and hitting ‘post.’

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