WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Why do we do it? (Write, that is…)

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There’s a new book out called Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do, edited by Meredith Maran. I would like to read it.

But before I do, I’ll be content to think about the excerpts provided by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings, featuring Michael Lewis’s thoughts on the subject. Lewis, of course, is the author of many hugely successful books: Moneyball and The Big Short among them. Turns out he walked away from a Wall Street career and the promise of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses to accept a $40,000 book advance, and the rest is his story.

He has some useful observations on the writing life, including:

–It’s always good to have a motive to get you in the chair. If your motive is money, find another one.

–I took my biggest risk when I walked away from a lucrative job at age twenty-seven to be a writer. I’m glad I was too young to realize what a dumb decision it seemed to be, because it was the right decision for me.

–A lot of my best decisions were made in a state of self-delusion. When you’re trying to create a career as a writer, a little delusional thinking goes a long way.

Ain’t it the truth. And there’s more, such as how he immerses himself in a project to the exclusion of almost everything else in his life. (One hopes he lets bodily functions run their course, but it sounds like he’s resistant even on that front.)

All this makes me reassess my own modus operandi and thank my lucky stars that I no longer get up at 4:30 in the morning to write. That was rough. I will say, though, that there’s something about the immersion method, especially at a time when the rest of the world is slumbering. Time disappears and you’re floating on a sea of your own thoughts until the light comes up and real life pulls you out of the trance. When you look at your screen, you might find some pretty good stuff there.

As to why we write, as Lewis says, the explanations are always changing. His own situation is complicated because he has a large audience and knows he’s something of a cultural arbiter. On the smaller scale of obscure novelists (speaking for myself), I’d say it changes often as well. Sometimes it’s to get a particular story out of my head, sometimes it’s to explore certain emotions or deal with lingering dilemmas tricky as celtic knots. Other times it’s to make myself feel better, because writing generally does that for me. Feels good to make something good.

So, why do you write?

10 comments on “Why do we do it? (Write, that is…)

  1. bookmammal
    September 16, 2013

    This book sounds so interesting–especially since several authors listed on the cover are favorites of mine (Jodi Piccoult, Susan Orlean, and Ann Patchett). I’m putting this on my TBR list–thanks!

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 16, 2013

      Should be very instructive! Thanks for visiting, by the way…

  2. John W. Howell
    September 16, 2013

    Um. . . er. . . ah why do I write? I write because I have stories inside that need to come out. The only way I can think to get them out is to use this here keyboard and this here computer and type em to oblivion. Aren’t you glad you asked.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 16, 2013

      You could always carve them out of Spam and display them around town atop mail boxes and fire hydrants. Don’t tell me you haven’t thought of that already!

      • John W. Howell
        September 16, 2013

        Didn’t think of Spam but thought of using soap carvings.(how did you know?)

      • Kevin Brennan
        September 16, 2013

        Soap won’t hold up in the rain… Spam rots eventually, I guess. Maybe writing is the best option after all…

  3. Phillip McCollum
    September 16, 2013

    I’m usually just hitting keys to release pent up frustrations and somehow words and sentences come out!

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 16, 2013

      Like the fabled monkey who winds up typing King Lear! (Or is it Don Quixote?…)

  4. Dave
    September 18, 2013

    Yeah, I’ve got to do something with these stories in my head, otherwise I’d go crazy. I understand they have medication you can take to make them go away, kind of like the voices, but I’d rather not 🙂

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 18, 2013

      I’m steering clear of the meds too. It’s entertaining in my head!

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This entry was posted on September 16, 2013 by in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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