There are many reasons why we choose to write: creative expression, catharsis, therapy, communication, social networking, money, fame, individuality– the reasons for writing are limitless. But regardless of what your reasons are, so as to ensure that you reach your potential as writer, it’s essential that you are writing for the right reasons.
What determines the validity of one’s motivations for writing? Well, the answer to that question really depends on you: do you believe with all your heart that by writing you can achieve the goals for which you write for? If not, your writing will be at best half-baked, and at worst misguided and, ultimately, futile. If you cannot follow through with the goals for which you write, you would be better off either changing the reasons for which you write, or not writing at all.
If you are writing for creative expression, why limit yourself to writing? There is a myriad of forms of creative expression, including music, painting, photography, film-making, and all kinds of innovation, some forms of which remain undiscovered. Writing is one of the oldest and most primitive forms of creative expression, and relatively limited in its ability to convey emotional meaning, or meaning of any kind. Perhaps you should explore all the other ways to express yourself, so as to ensure that you will find one most optimized for your individual skills and personal character.
If catharsis is your goal, writing is an exemplary means of venting all that excess negative energy, but by no means should it be used as a sole means of therapy, nor as a primary. Millions of people write to cope with emotional stress, but that doesn’t necessarily keep them from wanting to harm themselves or others, nor can it guarantee relief from depression. As a means of catharsis, writing should be supplementary to other forms of treatment. Writing is a proven tool in therapy, particularly for engaging patients socially, or to target personal issues via role-play, but it shouldn’t be relied on much more than just that– a tool. Just as with catharsis, writing is better optimized as a form of therapy when combined with other means of treatment.
In this day and age of technology and the world wide web, social networking is proving to be an increasingly important part of staying connected with, and influencing the world in a meaningful way. Writing is an important part of bringung about such influence in the world, but you would be short-changing yourself socially if you limited your ability to social network to the written word. The greatest of social titans in today’s world are not just writers, but film-makers, musicians, comedians, artists, and photographers– all bundled into a single person. Today’s social media celebrities have learned to merge every major form of creative expression into a single image, thus earning the name “Personality”. If your true motivation for writing is to network with people, and especially to network on the social of Internet personalities, don’t limit yourself to writing, when there are so many other media of self-expression at your disposal, just waiting to be used!
Money and fame go hand and hand as a motivation for writing, but there are few motivations for writing more misled than these! As Ron L. Hubbard, founder of the pseudoscientific religion Scientology noted, “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be start his own religion.” Ron L. Hubbard did just that, and made several millions as a result, as well as achieving worldwide fame and notoriety. So, if I may be so bold, I recommend that those of you seeking to get money or fame through writing take a leaf out of Hubbard’s book. At the very least, you are more likely to acquire money and fame through Hollywood than through writing.
Writing to assert one’s individuality is a tricky one, as the validity of such a motivation is in itself individualistic (and thus subjective) in nature. But, if I might draw upon my own personal experience, writing for individuality is imbalanced and overly existentialistic, and might lead to nihilism, depression, and self-loathing if left unchecked. Writing is intended as a form of communication through expression, and anyone who writes for the sole purpose of self-assertion might eventually realize this is not enough, as it is the literary equivalent of talking to yourself.
Communication is probably one of the purest motivations for writing, and probably one of the only reasons which, in my opinion, can be considered an inherently sufficient impetus for writing. After all, writing was designed from the very beginning to facilitate communication. If this is your primary reason for writing, you might as well have been a born writer!
When it comes down to it, the best of writers don’t write for any one reason, and often choose one primary impetus which is complimented by several supplementary motivations. By writing for multiple reasons, you can help ensure that your writing is balanced and your motivations strong, and each additional reason for writing will only further enhance your ability to write creatively, powerfully, and effectively.