Why Do We Write?
Recently, I stumbled upon a website that asked why we read and offered five reasons. What struck me was that the reasons the website provided as to why we read are very much also the reasons we write. I’ve taken those concepts and applied them to my own situation.
- We read/write to escape: According to this site, readers launch into a new book to escape their mundane or traumatic lives. I can completely agree with that hypothesis. I, too, have often read a book, particularly one set in the past, to escape. My life is not humdrum or horrific; however, I have a high-pressure job, my writing career, and the demands of domestic life. Losing myself in a good book is often a stress-buster, and writing often serves the same purpose. When I create characters, I lose myself in another time or place. The world around me disappears. When I wrote Buccaneer Beauty, I wanted to challenge myself and disappear in 1500s Ireland in the character of a real female pirate. When I wrote Love at War, I wanted to escape to a time when my mother’s generation faced challenges that seemed insurmountable, yet many young people faced that challenge and defeated bully nations.
- We read/write for companionship: I am not a lonely person. My life is full with a loving husband, a fulfilling but stressful job, and many friends/family. However, the characters in books may become friends and companions. Jo in Little Women was definitely my role model. I wanted to be a writer like her. As a child, I frequently lost myself in a book and identified with the characters.
- We read/write to gain perspective. When I read a book set in another period, I gain an understanding of my own time. Many of our problems also plagued people of other generations. A novel set during the Influenza outbreak might help me make sense of COVID—if making sense of this time is possible—but our ancestors probably felt the same anxiety as they watched people succumb to disease. Similarly, science fiction helps us deal with our anxiety about scientific discoveries, innovation, and uncertainty.
- We read/write to understand the people they have never met and places they have never visited. My historical fiction requires a great deal of research, and I love placing myself in the shoes of people who lived in other times and faced their own challenges. As a traveler, reader, and a writer, I love reading novels set in locations I’d love to explore. When I wrote From Ice Wagon to Club House, I was re-creating the past to understand my father. My father, like Jude Mooney, had been a bootlegger, bookie, horse trainer, and boxing promoter. He died when I was very young, and his exploits are the stuff of legend. I knew the legend more than the man. Like Jude Mooney, he grew up poor and started his life driving an ice wagon. I embellished Jude Mooney—as most fiction writers do, but Jude shares many of my father’s traits. I was able to place myself in my father’s shoes in ways I never could have when he was alive.
5. We read/write to be entertained. When I read and when I write, I want to feel fulfilled and happy. Reading a novel about people I can identify with and root for satisfies me. Writing a novel after completing research and planning also provides me with a sense of fulfillment and contentment. Lazy summer days and rainy weekends are perfect times to curl up with an entertaining book. They also are the perfect times to snuggle up to your laptop and bring your characters and their alternate worlds to life.