Readfeed Logo

Authors on why they write


Maybe you don’t even think about why you write – you just do. It’s like breathing. Or maybe you’re having a lapse in motivation and you need to rediscover why you write to get creative again. 

Authors often have many different motivations for writing. Here are some quotes from authors on why they write:

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” – Joan Didion

Joan Didion revolutionised journalism with her introspective, poetic writing style. She wrote American culture in a way that read like a great novel – creative nonfiction wouldn’t be the genre it is today without her influence. She says here that she writes to make sense of her own thoughts and reveal more about herself. 

“I write because I have an urge to excel, to learn and to grow.” – Stephen King

Stephen King is a master of his art and for him, the exercise of writing is a way to continually challenge himself. He’s written a lot about the craft of writing, but even this single quote is a good one to apply to your own practice. Writing should always be a learning experience – you can do a lot of reading, but the steepest and most effective learning curve is just having a go and learning by doing. 

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.” – Stephen King

We did say Stephen King has written a lot about writing… enough to warrant two quotes in this curation. He acknowledges that writing is not a direct reflection of life – it’s always a creative and subjective expression of one’s experience of the world. But writing about your experiences can make you feel like you’re living life more fully and being present more in your experiences. 

“I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.” – Isaac Asimov

For Isaac Asimov, writing is absolutely necessary. A lot of us feel this way. Writing as part of a routine normalises it and makes it as expected as eating breakfast – this can help you to  be more productive. Have you optimised your writing ritual? Like everything else, it helps to have it as a habit and set it up in a way that makes it easy to do it regularly. Just like making sure your yoga mat is easily accessible so you have no excuse not to do your daily stretches – keep your writing area clear and keep stocked on stationery. 

“Writing is a way to give myself permission to think, to make mistakes, to explore.” – Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith’s quote, much like the sentiments of Stephen King, is about the learning experience of writing. Giving yourself permission to make mistakes is a big one generally in life – many of us are scared of making a fool of ourselves, so we don’t even try. And then we haven’t achieved anything anyway. It’s so much better to try – even if you don’t achieve what you wanted to, you’ll always learn something from it.

“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.” – Graham Greene

For Graham Greene, writing is an essential coping mechanism. Strip all the career ambitions of writing and think about the core of the practice – do it for yourself before anything and anybody else. Only then can you be true to yourself in your writing and be free and creative.