[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.