the pleasure of writing

Guardian article: There’s more than one measure of success as a writer.

In which, author Patrick Ness says: “What is writing for? Colm Tóibín aside, why do we rarely, if ever, talk about writing solely for the pleasure of the act?” (In case you’re not clicking through, on March 3rd, there was a post about Colm Tóibín in which he claimed to get no enjoyment from his work, but liked the financial sucess.) Ness goes on to wonder why writing can’t be like playing a musical instrument, which made me laugh because that’s come up more than once in my own conversations. And I’ve applied it to painting or other arts too. I get this impression that it’s okay to play for your own pleasure without going pro, but that somehow that doesn’t apply to writing. If you tell someone you’re taking piano lessons, their first question isn’t when you’ll be playing with the Philharmonic or even the local church choir, but if you say you’re a writer, they immediately want to know what you’ve published. Given the statistics of becoming a New York Times bestselling author, or a famous rock star, or of getting a gallery showing, this seems like rather a lot of pressure when one thinks about it. And one wonders if it takes away from the act itself. Why can’t it be its own end?

So… what about writing – the act itself – do you enjoy the most? Is it the solitude of communing with your imagination? The act of creation? Getting to know a character you’ve never met before? What?

And, for those of you in the publishing trenches, did you used to enjoy writing, but now find that the goal of publication (whether for the first time or thereafter) gets in the way? And, if so, what do you think could help you re-acquire that old feeling?

66 responses to “the pleasure of writing

  1. Hm. If I don’t write things, they either make me grouchy and cranky until I do, or the images go away and I forget them and that makes me sad. It’s sort of like an addiction, the act of writing. The act of having written makes me feel good, but writing itself is more a “if I don’t, I suffer” kind of thing.
    My ego likes people saying they liked my work. (It’s nothing to go into a query letter, but one of our regular waitresses, at a restaurant we’ve been going to every weekend for over a decade, got to read my first draft. And she loves it and was delighted when I said she could keep the printout I’d done. And that made me happy. O:> )

    • You just summed up exactly why I write!
      I get really cranky if I don’t do it for a day or two. And when I have days where I do writing, I’m almost always in a good mood. And if the writing goes especially well that day, well then it’s a high like none other.
      Anyways, just wanted to say I’m glad I’m not the only addict 🙂

  2. Too true. It’s quite obvious that the artistic side of writing and the business side are two different thingss – it takes a very special type of person to engjoy both!

  3. Once a week (or so) I work on story files that I don’t plan on trying to get published. Just for the fun of it. No working hard to get the story arcs to land perfectly…no trying to make certain that each word has meaning. It’s almost like writing my own fan-fic.
    But it reminds me that there has to be some joy in it, not just endless editing and crafting ;o)

  4. First of all, thank you for posting these links.
    Excellent questions. As an academic interested in pop culture, I’ve actually presented papers on the idea that writing for enjoyment on-line can springboard into practice for publication, and one of the things that many of my primary sources say in interviews is that they’d really rather NOT enter what they perceive as the dog-eat-dog world of trying to publish, that the fans that they have who read their work are validation enough.
    As I have moved toward publication myself, I know that the one thing I miss about writing online has been the sense of community that you don’t have as a pre-published writer. I liken writing on the internet to local performance for musicians and actors. However, if you want to make the big time, you might have to go to a larger performance venue, and the competition gets harder.
    But I digress. (Academics will do that.)
    What do I enjoy the most about writing? There’s a certain moment when the imagination gives you that rush, when you get the inkling that the thing you’re doing is working. I also enjoy when I have a character who captivates me so much that I can’t help wanting to tell the story they are telling me. If it’s working, I’m acting out my scenes in the car. It’s performance. It’s fun.
    That, we can’t share with anyone else, and even if we don’t get paid for the work, well, feeling good is a kind of payment.
    Since I have a book coming out in September, I find that indeed, some of the sparkle comes off the raw joy of the writing process, and it comes to resemble the work I did on my thesis, rather than the writing I did solely for pleasure. Yet, I can deal. The idea of seeing a book in print, and perhaps ultimately publishing in the bigger leagues gives me a different kind of pleasure.
    If I’m very lucky, I can recapture the happiness of discovery in my first drafts. I want cake, and I want ice cream. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.
    It also helps that I don’t rely on my writing for my income, which means if I am unhappy, I have options. I wonder sometimes if paying the bills destroys the joy of the art, introducing a kind of stress into an environment of creativity?

  5. I love thinking up and writing new things: plot ideas, locations, characters, narrative approaches. If I start having novels published, I think I would retain that love if I was able to continue exploring new things. I would have to be able to write lots of very different books.

  6. Wirting can be amazing. It can also kill my will to live.
    I love it when things are flowing and I’m making steady progress, I LOVE rewriting so hard that sometimes I think its scared of me. I love reading something I wrote and forgetting that I wrote it and going “wooh, I like this, neat, baby.”
    I don’t like slogging through the middle bits, being on sub, and revising a book I’ve decided is the worst piece of slop on the face of the earth.
    I feel al this with every book, every time.

  7. It may be the medium itself. I sing and play music because I enjoy the way it sounds and the way it feels. I draw because I enjoy looking at the finished product.
    But I hardly ever like reading things I wrote. Especially a novel. I spent months or years writing it, agonizing over it, revising it all to heck, and in the end… I’m kind of done with it. I very much want others to enjoy it. But I don’t know if I’ll ever take pleasure in it myself anymore.
    Compare that to how I feel about other people’s novels. There are some novels I’d read over and over again. They’re my comfort books, and they make me feel warm and fuzzy every time. My own novels don’t do that. Maybe that’s the difference.

  8. First of all, I think there’s a difference between saying, “I’m a pianist” and “I’m taking piano lessons.” Saying “I’m a writer” declares that this is something that you do as a job.
    Second, as someone who has a dayjob that is also in the arts, I’ll tell you that for me writing and puppetry are exactly like music (played violin for seventeen years). I enjoy both, but any professional musician will tell you about the hours and hours of practice. Rehearsals and building are often long, grueling hours of work.
    I think it might help to think about it this way. I are storytellers, so the story is the thing I love. The manuscript is the tool to get the story out. There are times when the joy of crafting that tool is prevalent and there are times when it’s difficult and unpleasant, but all of that is worth it if I get the story out. It’s the same with rehearsals. I rehearse because I love performing. I write because I love telling stories. Both of those are pointless, to me, without an audience. The act of putting words on the page is satisfying and more often than not it’s fun, but it is a means to an end. The satisfaction comes from the craftsmanship, if that makes any sense.

    • “I are storytellers…” I can haz grammar?

    • In my other life, I am a teacher, which is also a kind of storytelling for me and my students. I teach writing and literature, so we don’t have much content to hide behind. It is difficult to tell the story, especially when you are working together to tell it, but when it works in the classroom setting, it is wonderful.

    • Wouldn’t writing be more comparable to composing music rather than just playing it? I don’t play any instruments, so I wonder.

      • I suspect that writing music and writing fiction or theater are much the same thing. I have a friend who does both, so I could ask him.
        But there are enough similarities, at least for me, in the process of working on a story as there are in rehearsals that… hm. Just had a thought.
        When I’m designing a show, my output as a writer goes way down, because it uses the same part of my brain. (Rehearsal and performance don’t have that effect on me.) But this makes me think about the fact that I can’t imagine saying “I design” as a statement about a hobby. I mean, who designs a show for fun? But I will paint for fun.
        There’s a saying in puppetry, “Do you know what’s the difference between playing with dolls and puppeteering? An audience.”
        I’m wondering if part of the difference between designing and writing vs. playing music and painting is that it is easier to be your own audience for music and painting. I mean, if I’m creating a story but not planning to share it with an audience, then it’s not much different from daydreaming. So the act of writing it down implies seeking an audience.

        • “‘m wondering if part of the difference between designing and writing vs. playing music and painting is that it is easier to be your own audience for music and painting.”
          Yes, I think this is it exactly. With writing, I spent years telling bedtime stories to myself. Only the thought of a potential audience made me write them down.

    • I think there’s a difference between saying, “I’m a pianist” and “I’m taking piano lessons.” Saying “I’m a writer” declares that this is something that you do as a job.
      Point. But I think it might be semantic. If I were to reword that sentence to “I play piano” and “I write”, I still think the former would not prompt people to ask where I perform, but the latter tends to get those asking what a person has published. And that’s what I’m trying to get at here. There seems to me to be an expectation inherent in the latter that’s not present with the former. I am wondering if there is an assumption that writers write for publication (to be a pro) but musicians aren’t all trying to be performers (or does session-playing count?).

      • Hm… I’ll admit that my own reaction, if someone says, “I play guitar” is to ask if they are in a band but that might be because I work in the arts so I default toward arts = job. It also depends on the context in which the topic comes up, I suspect.
        But you might be right there. I wonder if it’s as simple as the fact that a high percentage of the population took some form of music classes in school via the orchestra or band program, so a declaration like, “I play piano” is seen as a skill set. Unless one is illiterate, declaring “I write” means that it’s more than a skill set.
        For instance, I know that “I paint” has prompted the “sold anything” conversation for me.
        It could also be social conditioning. The only time writers are portrayed in the media is when they are struggling toward publication.
        Now, ironically, for me it’s more common to have people assume that I haven’t published anything. The expectation feels more like they’re expecting it to be a hobby that’s gotten out of hand.

        • It is somewhat semantics, which is why I hate the phrase, “aspiring writer.” I mean, *Yoda* Do or do not write, there is no aspire.
          If you write works with the intent of having an audience, you are a writer.
          I make the distinction of referring to someone as an author if they are the author of a completed work. Rarely do we say in modern English, “I am authoring a novel.” We say, “I am writing a novel.”
          I reserve professional writer for those that earn wages from their work— I still give no love for self-published authors. No love for you!

  9. Fun is okay, but Winning is better
    One time a friend of mine named Mike said, ‘You and Rodney don’t have enough fun when you play video games. You’re too serious.’
    Rodney explained, ‘We aren’t in it to have fun. We’re in it to win.’
    People have a hard time understanding when I tell them pleasure isn’t my top priority, but I thrive on challenge. I’ll never self-publish, and I intend to get published even if I have to revise my novel 15 times before I get it right.
    I’m not saying I will do anything for success, but I want to put up a good fight.

  10. I’m unpublished and likely to remain so, but I get a lot of pleasure out of trying to put a story together. I really like the main character in the story I’m writing now, so when I post an excerpt on my blog I feel like I’m introducing my imaginary friend to new people.
    I write mysteries, so I also enjoy the challenge of keeping the plot on track. Sometimes I look back at it and think, “No, full of holes!” but other times the internal logic holds, and I am ridiculously proud of myself.
    Mind you, I am also taking guitar lessons and am still at the stage where putting together a few chords and hearing it turn into “Bad Moon Rising” is cause for delight and disbelief. I guess I’m easily amused.
    Makes it easier to accept the possibility of never getting published, though, when the writing itself is such good fun.

  11. When I write I am most purely myself. Writing is part of my purpose for being. To not write is to deny myself.
    The most fun I have in the writing process is writing the first draft. I love the artistry, the discovery, the adventure of creating people and exploring new places. I can be very, very naughty without the consequences.
    Someone gave me a T-shirt a few years ago that says, “Writers, sitting alone at their desk, changing the world one word at a time.” I like the thought of changing the world with words, and also with music, and thoughts, and all the myriad things I do throughout each day. Quantum physics at its finest.
    Do I enjoy the business aspect of writing? Well, no, not as much as writing that first draft, so I’ve set up a reward system. I get to write something fresh AFTER I’ve revised that chapter, sent out submissions, tended to the business.
    I also enjoy the outlet writing a blog affords.
    The ultimate reward comes in November — a month free from business, revisions, cleaning the house. I set it all aside for Nanowrimo. That’s pure unadulterated FUN!

  12. My perspective (amateur, first pro short story sale a couple of days ago):
    I enjoy the act of writing, especially the act of surprising myself with the beauty and the words and characters on the page. Often times when I come back later the work isn’t quite so beautiful 😉 — but the writing fugue makes me feel whole somehow.
    That said, there is a lot of baggage tied up in it. Hopes, dreams of escaping the daily grind, living up to past stories, self-doubt. That sort of pressure makes it a lot less fun. Especially if the muse/fugue doesn’t show up. Also, I don’t enjoy the rewriting part as much as I probably should.
    It is a heck of a lot more fun than most people probably do for a living, but I can see how it could become a negative, unrewarding trap if you get tied up in the negative parts instead of the positive ones.

  13. At a certain point, if you spend four to twelve hours a day, seven days a week, four seasons a year, year after year, researching, writing, revising and boring all relatives with discussion of your writing, family members say to you,
    “You d*%$ well better make some money at this.” And you can tell from the steely, almost manic fever in their eyes, they mean it.
    At that point, whether you like it or not, you have to break out the query letters.

  14. Creative process. Ideas come together for me easier when I start writing them out.

  15. I love that feeling of surfacing after x amount of time with the feeling that it’s been just minutes and seeing that it’s been hours. Getting totally lost in what I’m doing.

  16. What I love about writing: the process of figuring out characters. Seeing where their stories go (because if I don’t, the unfinished stories will nag at me). The simple selection of the proper word in the proper place.

  17. Writing can be an act of pleasure, done for its own merit, with no ambitions of remuneration attached. It often is that very thing, but publishing professionals tend to call that ‘fanfic’, and tend to regard it with suspicion, and often scorn.
    Not to say that fanfic doesn’t include some excrable examples of the craft, from the ubiquitous Mary Sue to the txtsp33k t33n3rz, but there are also beautifully talented writers to be found there, who are doing the work because they love to write, and don’t want to muddy the well of their enjoyment with the stress and demoralization of the publishing process. They write stories in another creator’s world purely because there is no pressure to then take those stories and sell them. So the writing remains an act of love, not of business.

  18. So… what about writing – the act itself – do you enjoy the most?
    I get to make something intricate without bashing my thumb with a hammer.
    And, for those of you in the publishing trenches, did you used to enjoy writing, but now find that the goal of publication (whether for the first time or thereafter) gets in the way? And, if so, what do you think could help you re-acquire that old feeling?
    First question: yeah, it gets in the way, because some of my less commercial story instincts actually matter now.
    Second question: Well, the whole world could decide to love my books no matter what I write. Alternately, I could just become a better writer.
    Deadlines are stressful. Hopefully, that will ease as time goes on.

  19. I write because I like to, but there are a lot of different reasons I like to. Off the top of my head:
    – Plotting and planning characters and character arcs is a bit like a puzzle. So is rewriting. I get the same sort of pleasure out of writing that I would get out of a puzzle. This is more of a cerebral, left-brain kind of pleasure.
    – I’ve found that writing helps me notice things about the world I wouldn’t otherwise. When I’m wondering why someone acts a certain way, or why people like the things they do or don’t like the things they don’t, I usually sit down with a blank text file and start typing things out until I reach some sort of understanding. This is also rewarding when I’m trying to decode my own behavior and feelings. This has a bit of left-brain feel to it, too.
    I feel that the things I have learned by writing about them are helpful to everyday living. I feel they’ve made me a more secure person and more empathetic to people who are different than me, both of which make life easier and happier for me.
    – The more right-brain element of this is that I just like feeling emotions, even negative ones, and I feel like writing is a healthy way to sublimate things. If I need to feel angry or bitter or petty or violent or insecure or excited or bare or self-righteous or despairing, I can write about it in some form. That way I can visit things on my own terms, rather than make bad decisions out of boredom. Whenever I have an irrational impulse, I write instead of indulging it.
    Plus writing about things is a really great way to get over fears and hang-ups. I just get it all out of my system and I’m past it. It’s great, free therapy. (Of course, writing can just as easily be used to dwell on unhealthy things. I think it all depends on the writer.)
    Even if I never publish anything, I feel like I would be a much poorer person if I didn’t write.

  20. In a conversation with a successfully published writer (who also has several movie deals)during a weeklong workshop, he told me, (paraphrased) “I’m not a writer like most of you are writers. I do it now because I’m having some success with it. If I stopped being successful, I could set it aside and never look back.”
    I just didn’t get that. Terri writes. End of story. Whether or not I ever publish on a grand scale, it will still hold true. What would I do with all the worlds in my head??

  21. Ha. I get the “What have you published?” question all the time, and while that is my eventual goal, I know I’ll still want to create stories even if I never sell a book.
    It’s the act of creation for me. I’ve got stories fluttering about in my head, and until I sit down and force them to come out in a logical order, they just float around as snippets. I like putting them in some sort of tangible form (if you can call words on a computer screen “tangible”) and making connections between this event and that. I like fleshing out characters and figuring out what makes them work. I like making myself think critically about the stuff of my dreams.
    My only frustration is that when I put something on paper (or a screen, as it were), I have to make it make sense. In my head, I can ignore the little details, but I want all the quirks of the story to have logic behind them when I write them down. At times, though, writing with an eye toward publication can be a tiny bit stifling–my plan for my current MS includes lots of backstory, both for character development and filling in several hundred years’ worth of history, and it can be stressing trying to figure out where to fit it all in with the main narrative! (Of course, like I said, this wouldn’t be a problem if I weren’t trying to confine it to a decent novel length. If I let myself ramble on, it could be hundreds of thousands of words long, but even I wouldn’t like it then. So lots of revision ahead to tighten everything up!)

  22. I like the clickety-clack of the keyboard. I mean, I also like it when I put words together in ways that nobody has before, when I can say something, and make it true by the telling, and so on. But mainly, I’m in it for the clicking.

  23. I, like many others here, enjoy the creation of a story. I enjoy the plotting and figuring what makes my characters tick. However, I’ve discovered that this can produce quite a headache. I write because I can’t seem to stop. If I stop, my characters always seem to keep talking anyway.

  24. Even if I thought I’d never get published, I’d still write, though to be truthful, I probably wouldn’t spend so much time on revision 🙂
    I used to write songs. Back in the days when you actually had to go in to a proper studio, I must have recorded at least sixty. That represents about a third of the total number of ‘completed’ works (ie; those that got at least one live performance). Of those sixty, there are only about two dozen that I’m still proud of. I think story-telling works the same way. Not everything stands the test of time, but it’s always fun while you’re making it up.

  25. For me there is nothing like the sheer excitement of watching the characters take over — as if they’re acting by themselves. The first time that happened to me, I was an addict for life.
    ETA: I also write songs, which I produce in a tiny home studio and occasionally release for free on the interwebs. I have no intention of selling them — I do them strictly for fun, and probably will till the day I die. Same with writing — I’ll always do it, whether I sell or not. It’d be fun to sell, though.

  26. I absolutely love the zone — you know, that thing that happens when your writing along and the world just disappears. When it reappears its 4 hours later instead of the 20 minutes it felt like. I also love it when I have assumptions I hadn’t realized I’d made, busted. You make your main character a police officer, but then suddenly realize he doesn’t have to be a PO, he could be a teacher and the story would work better.
    I guess it all boils down to the act of discovery. I like surprises.

    • Now that I’ve read the other comments…
      I never started out writing for publication. I’m from small-town Ohio — Ohio girls don’t get published. But then I did. And I wrote for TV. And now I’m writing audio dramas for the cult classic Dark Shadows.
      So I guess I do both. I do writer for publication (or production in this case), but I write my short stories and novels whether or not they’ll be published. I can’t say the same about scripts.

    • The surprise aspect is amazing. I’ve tried to explain this to non-writers before, and they just don’t understand. Their belief seems to be that the writer is always in control, that everything the characters do and say, that every direction the story goes is chosen with careful planning and serious deliberation. I suppose this is true for some authors, but personally I’d be disappointed if my characters didn’t surprise me. Even if you’re writing from an outline, if your characters are strong enough, they start writing themselves, and sometimes they end up in places you never expected. Just because the writer wants the character to kick down the door and charge in, if that’s not something the character would ever do, it’s not going to happen (and if it does, um, you’re doing it wrong).

      • I’ve had the same reaction from nonwriters. Especially when I say something like — “My main character and I had an argument today and she won.”
        I actually do write an outline, but I don’t think of it as being in stone. My outlines always change as I get into the book and get to know my characters better. I think of the outline as a safety net — something to remind me of where I was going if I get stuck.

        • There was a post on GenReality about writing with outlines that had me thinking about it ( I liked her map analogy a lot. Sometimes you’re halfway to your destination when you realize that the place you were going to go isn’t as awesome as you once thought, and it would be a much better idea go somewhere else instead. Then again, I suppose that’s the time to rewrite your outline.

          • Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out. I rewrite my outline as I go. I usually end up at the same place — but the route changes quite a bit.

  27. Such a great question I had to delurk!
    I think that most humans want to be understood by other people, want to connect to other people. Some people are born with the ability to make those connections without very much effort, or even much thought. Most of us know people who can walk into a room of strangers and feel immediately at home. Others of us feel more shut off from other people, and so perhaps we feel compelled to explain ourselves, explain our perspective on the world.
    I don’t understand people, and conversely, I don’t really feel that they understand me. The way that I have grown to better understand myself, other people and the world is through writing. I don’t necessarily believe that all creative people are introverts, but I know that I am. If I had spent junior high and high school going to the mall with my friends, having long conversations into the wee hours of the night, making deep connections with other people, would I have felt the need to write horrible poetry, derivative novels and not-entirely-crap-but-still-pretty-bad short stories? I don’t think so.
    Where it gets complicated is when you bring in the audience. I assume that there are creative people of all kinds who have no interest at all in having an audience. I’m not one of those people. I write to understand, but I also write to be understood, and that second part is impossible without an audience. For a long time I didn’t write because I didn’t think my writing was any good. Having just one person read my writing has made an immense difference in my motivation.
    I like to think that I could write my whole life with only that one person reading and enjoying my work, but I know that positive feedback is addictive. If my one constant reader likes it, I think, then maybe other readers will too! So I branch out a bit, and if I keep getting good feedback, I branch out more, and soon I’m looking at finding an agent and getting published, and then money is involved, and so on and so on.
    On the flip side, if I got overwhelmingly bad feedback, it is not hard to imagine that I would stop writing entirely. That said, I think that I would pick myself up and try again, or switch to a different art form, because I’d be back at square one, just trying to get myself understood.
    This ended up much longer than I had planned. Thank you for asking the questions though, because even if no one understands or is interested in my answer, the process of writing it was personally enjoyable and interesting. Which I guess is a good metaphor to end with!

  28. Obviously, there are loads of reasons why I write (the joy of creating something new, the love of story, the indescribable high I get when a character that only exists in my head does something I didn’t know they were going to do — not to mention my utter lack of musical talent, and plain old vanity, I suppose), but the one I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned above is the wastefulness of NOT writing. I don’t think it’s uncommon for anyone, writer or not, to be struck by an image, a news item, or even an odd expression on someone’s face as you pass them on the street, and to mentally concoct stories around those things. But I do think that instinct, which is really, at its root, the instinct to play make-believe, is one that withers and dies without constant tending. I worry that if I shrug and think nothing of such moments, eventually I’ll stop having them altogether. Writing is my way of stretching those moments of make-believe, and seeing where they take me. Which, now that I read it back, makes it sound like enjoy writing because it allows me to not really have to be a grown-up. And I think I can live with that assessment.

  29. I love storytelling. As a professional graphic artist and burgeoning writer there is an overwhelming joy in sharing ideas in word and image. It’s the classic gathered-around-the-fire/sitting-at-the-feet-of-the-Griot thrill—starting with the catalyst, that image, scene or character that suddenly jumps into your head and demands to be brought forth. Figuring out the best way to do it, the multiple comps, edits and revision rounds are a necessary (sometimes painful) part of getting there. Whether it’s designing a book cover or writing the novel itself the joy, for me, is in communicating the themes for best effect. And when you create the ‘new hotness’ the look on your audience’s faces is an amazing high. I just love storytelling. Whether I do it through photoshop, word, final draft or sitting around the campfire I can’t stop. I’m completely strung out on words and images.
    I agree with Mary Robinette on the expectation of saying you’re a writer. So many of us play instruments but you don’t often hear someone claim to be a writer. I would compare it to saying “I’m an architect.” Folks are going to want to see the blueprints and a photograph of the finished product. I think it’s a sign of respect. When you proclaim “I’m a writer” that’s serious business to many people. Maybe blogging has become the pop culture idea of writing for pleasure. I don’t know… What do you guys think?

  30. I don’t know if I’ve ever purely enjoyed writing the way I’ve enjoyed playing music or creating paintings or cartoons or comic pages. There’s craft involved in all of those, sure, but I find writing has always been a way to get something out of my head, and once it’s out I feel the need to share it, just to keep it out of my head.
    Rarely do I find myself dwelling on a scene I wrote weeks or months or years ago, unless the story isn’t finished and I’m still working out where it goes next. If I’ve been away from a piece long enough and reread it, I sometimes enjoy what I did as if it were done by someone else. It’s fulfilling when I think I’ve done good work, and I certainly try to entertain myself with the writing; I’m the first audience the story has, and I need to be entertained to see it through.
    But mostly, it just feels like work. Always has. I don’t think I’d do it if I didn’t feel it was an absolute necessity. Writing irritates me, but not writing when a story is nagging (or when I’m on some sort of deadline) makes me miserable with myself. I have to write things down just to feel good about myself, even if only for a short time. It’s a terrible way to be.
    I love the feeling of being in the groove, though. I don’t know if I enjoy it per se, but it feels right to be there. I guess that’s it. I don’t enjoy it much, but it’s fulfilling when I’m in the zone.
    All of this is to be taken with a grain of salt; I’m still trying to get published. I also haven’t sold any music, and the only art I’ve sold was commercial graphics, which I ‘enjoy’ in that same way I do writing. So perhaps my ideas about artistic expression for fun have been skewed by my ambitions. I hope to be enjoying this stuff more after I’ve had just a little more success. I hope that will be enough.

  31. Several questions, let’s see:
    Act itself: This is going to sound terribly mystical and a little crazy, but there is a unique feeling that comes with unearthing a whole world, and other people, and stories. When the writing is going well on a project I really have my heart in it’s a state of ecstatic, mad, wild bliss. It’s pretty addictive to be honest. I’m not sure that kind of an addiction is necessarily healthy in any aspect of life, but it’s what I’ve got and I might as well enjoy it. *g* But that’s usually just the end of the book. Before the bliss there’s a sense of wonder and curiosity. I usually don’t quite know where the story is going to take itself. A general idea is hanging around but that doesn’t mean I know how it’s going to happen.
    I guess it’s a lot of things. It’s the joy of creation, yes, but it’s also learning these stories and telling them to other people. There’s a different kind of joy once it’s out there in the world for people to look at. I don’t tell stories to myself alone; I tell stories to other people. That to me is what being a writer is about.
    Trenches: Yes. I’ve been doing contract romance writing lately for some money and there’s very little enjoyment in it for me. I don’t get the rush, or the curiosity, or anything. I’m just doing it for a paycheck. That’s a little sad. I’m quitting after the last manuscript I’m contracted for is turned in to get back to Real Writing (as in projects I actually care about and have a stock in, because I do like romance and could see writing it seriously one day on my own time). That’s what I’m doing to get back to the way it should be. It’s okay for writing to be a “job” some days and to feel like tedious work, but a whole book shouldn’t ever, ever feel that way. I’ve learned my lesson. It’s not about the money, though the money is nice. It’s about telling a story I need to tell someone. I can’t enjoy cranking out books I don’t love, as it turns out.

  32. I love crafting words that express the images in my head in such a tangible, crystal-clear way that my readers or listeners exclaim, “I could totally imagine it!” I love creating characters and getting to know them to the point that I subconsciously assume they’re real people and mention them in casual conversation. I love the thrill of great new ideas and seeing how the little lost threads of my plot all come together if I do it just right. But overall, I think what I love the most is sharing my work with others and knowing that they enjoy reading it or hearing it, and that they love my own characters and created worlds as much as I do.

    SF writer –
    To God be the glory!

  33. Writing sucks. I hate writing.
    However, I like REwriting. I like taking the mess that came out of me with as much pain as actual disembowelment, and putting that mess in some sort of order.
    It’s not as satisfying to do with someone else’s mess (though that does have its appeal), so I am forced to do my own gut-ripping if I want to enjoy the rewriting.
    The joy of working with my own mess is that I can do anything I want to it, without need to “preserve the author’s voice.” I can change the plot at will, kill off characters what need killin’, move things around, delete scenes entirely.
    Writing new scenes that become necessary in rewrites is a million times easier than writing the first draft.
    The other high is that between long stretches of intestine-pulling (no, I’m not getting tired of that metaphor), sometimes a scene will come pouring out in a rush. It may turn out later to suck, but at the time, it’s a real high to have it dumping directly from brain to keyboard without effort.

  34. I write because I want to hear the audience ask for “more!.”

  35. I love stories, and I love the characters I write about. I absolutely adore it when my backbrain comes up with more and more details, more and more complexities, and things that seemed somewhat surreal and strange suddenly acquire an explanation that feels entirely right. I love those ‘so *that’s* why’ moment.

  36. Let me delurk here for a moment to say that I write because I like stories. I like reading them, and for me writing them isn’t so much different, because I rarely know exactly where the story is going, and I’m figuring it out as I go along, even if I have a general notion of where I want it to go. It’s sort of like a train on rails that are being laid at the same time as it travels across the plain, if you excuse the forced simile.
    People here mentioned the act of figuring out things, of solving puzzles, and that plays a big role in my writing. I like solving problems and puzzles, and figuring out what makes things work and how.
    Also, I usually write stories I want to read, so there’s a big enjoyment factor right there. Right now, publication’s still the icing on the cake.

  37. Why can’t it be its own end?
    And it is, for a lot of people who enter NaNoWriMo. I know there’s a perception that everyone is in it to get published, but the group I write with every year (over thirty of whom I’ve personally talked to) is largely made up of people who write because it’s fun. It’s something you can create on your own and entertain others with (we hold readings) without having to lay out money for art supplies or musical instruments. They have no interest in anything more than the social aspect and the feeling you get when you create something new.
    Outside of NaNo and fanfiction as cultural phenomena I’d be willing to bet that there are a lot more people who write on their own without any wish of publication.

  38. The thing I love the best is enabling other people to experience what I do when I read an incredible story. A solid world and empathetic characters are incredibly cathartic and inspiring.

  39. My favorite part of writing is telling someone’s story. There are so many stories out there waiting to be told and I feel lucky to be able to write them.

  40. I enjoy it when something I’ve written touches someone. I love it when someone, usually a friend, excitedly tells me how much they’ve enjoyed something I’ve written. There are few things better for me. That’s the pay off. The act of creation is also up there. When a story is done and I can no longer really commune with those characters, I feel let down. I miss them and, as sad as I feel, I love that it happens. I’m at the beginning of rewrites on my first novel and I’ve decided that grammar is evil, but I’ll learn all I can to make it work.

  41. I find it harder to focus and concentrate on writing alone than I used to. This may be partly that my RL has been demanding attention (and escapism) in various ways that are different from That Ancient Time Before The Intarwebz. It may be that my standards have gone up. It may be that I’m trying to do more with each scene. It can be very hard work.
    What I enjoy ab out it is when a new idea pops up and weaves itself into the existing threads and connects things in ways that look like it was deliberately planned for, it belonged there all along. It was integral to the story, I just didn’t know it yet. There’s something very spooky and intriguing about that process.
    Lately I’ve also been writing online with other folks for fun, just telling the story for its own sake, trying to find where it goes. We’ve kicked around ideas about framing it into a publishable work with any royalties/advances to go for charitable fund-raising efforts.
    With a sharp group of co-writers, it can be an incredible inspiration. I find the feedback loop of creating ideas can unfold entire world-building structures in a very small space. Huge amounts of information just fall into place in very small phrasings, which I love. Say you get an idea, and you get the ball rolling with a couple or dozen paras. Somebody else chimes in live with very cool riffs on it, which prompts other ideas, and pretty soon it’s all flying confetti notes everywhere. It’s a lot of fun.
    Ahh, but it’s not all sunny, either. Like all those online games and SecondLife emodrama and Etc., it can also be a royal pain to take it all very slowly and define your terms and try hard to understand what somebody else is really saying when people are not happy and some comment has offended somebody and major assumptions are not the same between different people.

  42. Power and Joy of Creation
    Why am I writing? Because I have a neat idea that I want to bring from conception to birth in a physical format. There really is an amazing thrill to create anything.
    And I hope to get published one day because I want to share my vision. I want to write a book I would love to read! It is a different media for me though, and it has taken a long time to get to the point I’m at, and because of your question I’m reminded that I haven’t been able to work in that medium for years. And it is that which may be spurring me on to develop my skills in this one.
    And it is wonderful to be “in the zone”, I’ve finally been there and start getting growly when people keep me away from writing when I “feel the muse upon me”. It is that experience of being “in the zone” and awaking to pages and pages of words having appeared while you watched your characters take over that I think makes a person a writer. If you get published then I’d call you an author. 😉 But as so many books state, “A writer writes.” If you write, then congratulations, you are a writer. And what a great group it is to be a part of!

  43. I used to be a professional singer, and I had colleagues who claimed they no longer enjoyed singing. I didn’t quite believe them, because if you don’t love it, why do it? It’s such an uncertain thing, a career in the arts. You do it as much because you can’t NOT do it! I always felt my weakness was loving it too much.
    Now, as a writer, I’m afraid I still love it too much. And thank goodness I do! That love for the work itself gets me through the dark times, the slow times, the occasional less-than-rave review. I do have a colleague who says she doesn’t like writing, but likes having written; she’s someone I admire, and I take her at her word. But for me, getting all the nonsense out of the way so I can sit down with The Book, is one of the most rewarding parts of my life.

  44. For me writing is the same joy of creating as I get in drawing and painting. If not for that I would not be able to write. The feeling when you take a raw matter – paper and pencil, paints, empty canvas, words – and bend it into a shape… I cannot compare to anything. It’s a bit like the feeling of appreciating a creation, but from the other side.
    I used to think that I’d like to get published… but now there is the internet 😀 It’s a great place for future publication (I hate to write only for myself, would like to have a few people that would read it and like it) of things I’d either write differently or never write if I was aiming at the traditional means of publication. Will I ever try to get published with a story… who knows? (yes, I read your journal out of curiosity, not to find the ultimate way to make a pitch; although if I found it I would not mind obviously)
    I can’t understand people that want to write just to make money, not fueled by love of writing. At my English classes teacher said something along the lines: “I wanted to write a book once, but the first page took me two weeks and I decided that writing is too hard for me”. You don’t decide you want to write. You WANT to write and decide to do it. Or you NEED to write and decide to do it. Or you HAVE to write and just do it.
    I’m one of the latter: I get stories in my head and I need to make something of them and let them out. I need to be a storyteller, a writer. I love all the speculations on the history, deciding if it fits better in a comic or in a fiction and all the rest of the creative process…
    What I also don’t understand is that you can be called a poet even if you’re not published… It seems only fiction has a stigma “has to be published by a big publisher to be called a writer”. On the other hand it seems to me it’s much easier to get poor poetry published rather than good fiction. And here, in Poland, fantasy & sf is considered “worse” kind of literature, even though I think our fantasy writers are better writers than other published writers here. So I guess if you are a non-published fantasy writer then it’s better not to mention it at all.

  45. Writing as an escape…
    I am a full-time-at-home mom, so my writing has become my escape from the humdrum life of a mom with young kids. Yes, I love my kids and my family life, but when I create, make up characters that excite and thrill me, my life takes on a new meaning. I love writing first drafts and getting the ideas out.
    The editing is a whole different thing. Very daunting, but the challenge has captured me too. I love the challenge as well, so I will persevere until it’s finished.
    Don’t know about the publishing world… haven’t gone there yet.

  46. I write for the joy of being in a world that is as beautiful and as terrifying as I wish, with characters I admire and pity, struggling to reach a noble ideal despite being hampered by the mundane realities of life. I write the stories I want to read, and I hope they will entertain others as well, but whether or not they are published (some have been, others are waiting), I write them for myself first of all.
    As some folk here have said, the publishing industry is difficult enough that if I didn’t love writing for its own sake, it wouldn’t be worth the effort. That given, it is a pleasure to see my work in print, and I am always surprised and delighted (in a Sally Field kind of way) when readers express their approval.

  47. The Pleasure of Writing
    Don’t know whether it’s the solitude or getting down ‘on paper’ what has been swirling around in my head. And while sometimes, I think I’d rather have a frontal lobotomy than sit down at the keyboard, without the creative outlet of writing, I expect my head would explode.

  48. Two days ago I came up with a plot twist that was both surprising and logical. I’m still smiling about that.
    I like getting to know the characters. It’s very satisfying to get to the point where you can hear their voices, know how they’ll respond to a comment or situation.
    My office is full of things I enjoy: computers, books, musical instruments, Siamese cats.
    And I am very fond of doing the happy dance of doneness. Few feelings are as satisfying as completing a story.

  49. I love just being able to create a story and see it come alive on paper. I love writing the dialogue between characters as it makes them seem more real to me too. I hope that someday it’ll get published but if not, I’ll have had the satisfaction of telling the story.

  50. Act of writing
    The things I discover about the characters during the process I find most intriguing. I know what happens the first go round, but I don’t always know WHY. As it reveals itself I find I am completely mesmorized. Ahhhh, I think, NOW that makes sense.

  51. The Joy of Writing
    I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t get joy out of their writing process either. If it isn’t joy-full, then why do it? [Yes, the money, but without joy it would be… A job.]
    For me, the joy is when it’s coming through as if I’m translating it from above. And when I get a turn of phrase, or an alliteration that tells me — Yes!
    I spend a lot of time [have spent] thinking about a piece before writing it. [Lately, once I get the idea, it just starts flowing.] If I think about it to much at this point, it starts turning into mud, and then into the indecipherable.
    Now, that’s when it becomes Work.

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