One of the recent NaNoWriMo posts last month caught my attention. By C.S. Lewis, it discussed why he wrote:
“Writing is like… ‘scratching when you itch.’ Writing comes as a result of a very strong impulse, and when it does come, I for one must get it out.”
This quote got me thinking about why it is I write. Someone has suggested that we write the stories we most want to hear. Does that mean that had I found a writer who writes stories about which I care deeply I would have no desire to write? Should I, instead of writing, spend more time reading to find the author who scratches my itch?
I don’t think so. There have been many stories that I have found deeply satisfying, and yet it is those stories that most encourage me to write. Orson Scott Card’s “Speaker for the Dead” moved me in ways that “Ender’s Game” did not (though I found it satisfying for entirely different reasons), but it probably encouraged me to write more than any other science fiction novel I’ve read to date. And though I still enjoy Card’s work immensely, nothing he’s written since has had the same impact.
I believe there are specific story elements or themes that resonate with us the most. We may read works that touch on those same elements to a sufficient degree to satisfy us, but because we are unique, they never quite touch on all the same elements that matter to us, or explore them with sufficient depth. The desire for stories that matter to us remains unfulfilled. It’s like eating one chocolate chip, knowing there remains an entire bag uneaten. It was satisfying, yes, but we want more!
And even our favorite writers aren’t able to give us more, not sufficiently fast, or for sufficiently long. Having fulfilled their own desire for the stories they want to read, they move on in search of new desires to fulfill, while our desire remains unsatisfied.
And so we write. We have found a story within ourselves that we suspect will provide us with what we need. We must get it out; it’s the story we’ve been waiting for. We may fail to tell the story the way it needs to be told because our craftsmanship is, as yet, unequal to the task, but we write anyway, because we need our story. We improve in our craft, and one day we will tell the story we need to hear the way it needs to be told. We will be able to move on in search of new desires to fulfill.
And so we write.