We had a discussion at our area writer’s group last night regarding why we write. There were an interesting contrast in the motivations of each of the writers in attendance. A common theme, was the desire to express one’s self internally. Writing was described as therapeutic and a way of achieving self-actualization.
However, there were various shades grey pertaining to the desire to be appreciated externally. They ranged from wanting to make money as a writer (me) to just a glimmer of a desire to share work with others. Even those who denied any motivation for external acknowledgement still want people to read their writing – and to like it. Why else be in a group? Why else share?
It’s important for a writer to come to grips with these motivations as they will help identify projects, style and training. By definition, to someone who is internally motivated, rules of writing convention do not apply. Whatever you enjoy, you do. The more externally motivated the writer, the more cognizant he or she has to be of the rules of convention in the craft from a technique and genre standpoint. That’s not to say a writer can’t break those conventions, but he or she should be aware of what they are in order to break them for the right reasons. Conventions do not define the “right” or “wrong” way to write, they merely define the generally held reader expectations. (Hence, my frustrations with many of the “how to” books and some of the training a writer receives from MFA programs.) If a writer cares about the reader’s overall perceptions of his or her writing (external motivation), he/she must understand how the writing will contrast or compliment the generally held conventions.
That leads us to the age old question, “Is Writing a Craft or an Art?” That will be addressed next week in next week’s blog.