Why Should We Write?

Two Facebook friends say that readership must be the main motive to write and readership results only if one writes something great or something controversial.

My reply:
Controversy becomes dated and is short-lived. Nowadays only historians discuss the Teapot Dome scandal. Besides, we should write for ourselves primarily. Readership should be secondary. Writing is an extension of oneself; an alembic which concentrates our ideas and feelings into the meta-person of our authorship. Salman Rushdie observes that each novel takes on a life of its own. Camus calls posterity “a paltry eternity.” Harper Lee was “a one book wonder” (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) who has remained silent ever since. Socrates says that misology is closely related to misanthropy. Sartre wrote an essay about “why we write.”



Sartre says, of style, that “[e]veryone invents his own, and one judges it afterward. It is true that subjects suggest the style, but they do not order it. There are no styles ranged a priori outside of the literary art”.

Sartre claims that “the function of the writer is to act in such a way that nobody can be ignorant of the world and that nobody may say that he is innocent of what it’s all about” (ibid. 321). Sartre here seems to be implying that there is some sort of truth which the author has access to which is conveyed to a reader through the medium of fiction (for how can one alleviate anothers ignorance without having some access to truth?).

Sartre makes a distinction between two different ways of artistically portraying objects: (1) as signs (that is, representations of ideas) and (2) as things (where we focus on the thing being portrayed as opposed to what the thing symbolizes). For example, we may consider a flower. One may either consider a white rose as a sign of fidelity, or conversely, one can consider the rose as a thing in itself; one can become lost in the texture and shape and sensation of perceiving a flower.

Prose,” Sartre says, “is, in essence, utilitarian” (ibid. 316). Prose is meant to get things done; it’s meant to be an action in itself but it is also meant to be a catalyst for further action.

“The writer can guide you and, if he describes a hovel, make it seem the symbol of social injustice and provoke your indignation” (ibid. 306) such that you are moved to act. That is the purpose of prose writing, according to Sartre.

Camus said that “a novel is never anything but a philosophy expressed in images. And in a good novel the philosophy has disappeared into the images. But the philosophy need only spill over into the characters and action for…the plot to lose its authenticity, and the novel its life”



I’m a writer. I write every day of the year. Even when I have no pending client work cluttering my desk, I never allow the sun to set without the jotted thoughts of my day, for the best moments of each earthly orbit should never be abandoned. Of course I carry my own quirks and struggles. Writing isn’t always as fluid as I like, clients aren’t always as easy as I hope, and my string of successes and mountains of money are no doubt a tad late to the party. But I would never call myself tortured. Writing is expression and I’ve found myself fortunate enough, midway through my third decade, to find the pleasure of doing it for a living.

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