Why do you write? This is, perhaps, the most important question I pose my students at the beginning of any new creative writing course. If they’re not sure, if they scratch their heads, study the ceiling, or choose that moment to text their friends, I advise them to take a break and think seriously about their motivation.
What I feel like saying is: Are you sure you want to do this?
Those of us who contemplate a career in writing, specifically in storytelling — especially as novelists — had better know. If we’re not driven by the unstoppable desire to write, if we’re not obsessed with understanding every nuance, texture and colour of a word, if our pulse doesn’t race when we hit that golden vein in a written passage, we’d be better off taking up a hobby instead.
Writing is hard. Accomplished writing is even harder. Earning a living as a writer is possible, thanks to the tablet revolution and marketplaces such as amazon.com, but it demands steely dedication, talent and luck. To make it as a writer you need to put your head down, keep learning your craft, on a daily basis, and never, ever, give up.
Knowledge and experience of the world are not enough, although they are required. Deep philosophical ideas are enriching, but they too, are not the secret—you want to impress me with your perspective on Existentialism? Go write an article in a philosophy journal. Ideas, at the cost of story, do not make for compelling novels, except for niche or elite readers. Nor, does artistic temperament, on its own. Sensitivity towards others and observational skills are essential, but they, too, are not sufficient.
So, what, in addition to the above, does one need to become a successful writer? The answer, I think, is rather obvious:
Passion is the secret ingredient that makes even the toughest journey enjoyable. Passion turns work into play and sweat into joy. Without passion you lose focus. Without passion you merely slog.
So, why do I write?
I write because passion compels me to. I have no choice. I can’t imagine anything else I’d rather do. Not in a million years. If I did, I’d be better off taking up bowls.
Passion is the essential ingredient in developing your writing career.