A couple of months ago, we lit a tiny #whyIread match and tossed it out into the universe, and promptly watched it ignite into a firestorm. The #whyIread prompt was simple: share why you continue to choose books over other forms of entertainment. Within the space of a few hours, we had thousands of responders; by mid-afternoon #whyIread was trending on Twitter; by the end of the day, we had 15,000 tiny notes celebrating the act of reading. The hashtag continues to gather responders (and spammers) two months later. (You can read the LATimes coverage here, and the original Tumblr piece that prompted the effort here.)
Today we issue a new invitation, and we hope you’ll join in. You’ve shared why you read; now tell us why you write: #whyIwrite.
Nearly every evening, I spend some time reading through my query folder, scanning the letters and manuscript pages sent to me and hundreds of other agents by aspiring writers across the world. And at least once a week, I feel a sense of being overwhelmed—not just by the sheer volume of letters, but by what that volume signifies: the innumerable multitude of writers reminds me of how universal the writing impulse is, and how ubiquitous the activity has become. We humans have always been storytellers, passing down our tales in voice and in stone, on parchment and page. Now we do that passing down in hypertext, with tools more widely available than any means of mass communication in the history of the world.
My wonder at the ubiquity of the writing impulse makes me at times desperately curious to know where it comes from. Why do so many choose writing as their hobby? And even more remarkable, why do so many choose this most challenging enterprise as their career? Follow the hashtag #amwriting and at any moment of any day, you’ll find someone somewhere stepping out of the stream of news and factoids to make something new.
Every writer has his or her own reasons. The magic of imagination, the thrill of creation, the reward of discovery, the music of language, the affirmation of public speech, the quiet satisfaction of private composition. What’s your reason?
In 1946, George Orwell published an essay in a small UK literary magazine in which he tried to explain the writing impulse in himself, and as he saw it in others. He suggested some did it because they wished to be heard and remembered; others wrote for love of sound and rhythm; still other to find out what was true; others to influence and persuade.
It’s a fair enough set of reasons. But even for Orwell, they didn’t quite capture the nameless prompt that drives people off the streets to a quiet place, that draws them away from consumption to production, that compels them to imagine and create. “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle,” Orwell wrote. “One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
We may not understand that demon impulse, but we heed its call, and lift a finger, press down a key, slide a pen across a page.
Today, you’re invited to share why you write. Log on to Twitter, toss down the hash tag #whyIwrite, and share what continues to draw you to the act of writing. We all have our reasons, and we’d love to hear yours.
I’ll start. Here’s #whyIwrite:
#WhyIwrite I write not so much to be heard by others, but to hear myself—to be reminded who I am, what I believe, and what I care about.
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