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Episode Info: If you’ve read On Being a Writer, you know my coauthor Charity Singleton Craig and I start with identity—claiming we are writers. I told the story of the university publication that accepted my first poetry submissions. They asked for a bio. I looked at examples from a previous issue I’d purchased. The poets talked about why they write. “Without overthinking it, I scribbled out, ‘I write, because no one listens to me.’”1 Until I wrote it out, I don’t think I realized why I was penning poems and pursuing the life of a writer. But when forced to express it in writing, there it was. At that nascent stage of my writing career, I simply wanted to be heard. Your reason for writing can be as simple as that—to have a voice. That may always be what drives you to the keyboard. But it can change over time. It’s been a few years—a few decades, if I’m honest—since I first identified my reason for writing. Over time, my purpose, my motivation—my reason—has changed, and changed again. It pays to revisit this question of why you write and see if your reasons have morphed. Because when you know why you write, you can stay focused and motivated. You can run decisions through the filter of your primary purpose. How to discover it? Through writing. Why Do You Write? Most of this exploratory work can happen in our private writing, like journals, rather than in public forums, like a blog or an essay. But you may find that an essay or poem intended for publication ends up effectively verbalizing your purpose. Writing invites us to grapple with unspoken desires and tap into our driving forces. When we write, we not only unearth our purpose, but we articulate it. I’m going to give you a couple of prompts to help you find your reason for writing—for being a writer. You might answer them in a single sentence without a pause because you know exactly why you’ve turned to writing. Or you might look at these and realize you’re not at all sure why you write. Or you might end up writing paragraphs in search of the answer. You might unearth multiple reasons that suggest more than one motivation. Get them down on paper. Write them out. Write to Discover Your Reason for Writing You’ll understand yourself better. You’ll realize why you’re drawn more to one project than another. You’ll have a way to decide where to focus your resources. And keep in mind that your purpose doesn’t have to be noble or big. Let’s say you decided to try writing a thriller on a dare from your best friend and it’s fun. That’s a reason for writing. You might want to see your name in a publication, to make money, or to be known as a subject matter expert. Those are all reasons for writing. You could work your discoveries into some sort of personal mission or vision statement, or a manifesto. Or going through this process may simply make you more aware of what’s driving you to write. It will ground you. You can play around with this. Jot out...
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