Your Purpose for Writing

There are many different reasons that authors write. Some have a need to share knowledge they have gained over a lifetime; others find the writing a good escape from an otherwise mundane world. Some writers choose writing as a form of expression to reveal some truth about the world, about themselves or about a common societal belief.

In the end, whatever your motivation for writing, mastering the art of expressing your ideas or your position or your vision is essential to be successful. Three famous authors wrote on this subject about their own reasons for writing:

“I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head.”
Sylvia Plath

“Writing is my way of expressing – and thereby eliminating – all the various ways we can be wrong-headed.”
Zadie Smith

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”
George Orwell

Expression means making something known. In the non-fiction world, beliefs can be challenged with facts and new experiences that support the facts ultimately cement the new, correct information into our belief systems. This can be a challenging and lengthy task, as people tend to resist change, particularly when the change imposes inconvenience. The perpetrators of the falsehood may have substantial resources to apply to shut down your contrary views, regardless of the facts. Armed with scientific research, factual accounts and empirical evidence, the intrepid writer persists in their cause and with the purpose of correcting the falsehood.

Think about the meaning of expression in the context of fictional stories. In a mystery or fantasy novel, the goal is to engage the reader in the story so they experience it as if they were present. Expression or making something known, in this context is a far more encompassing idea. In this case, making something known applies to the entire experience in the world you have created. The reader must follow the technical details of the story, experience the environment in the scenes and events, laugh and weep in empathy with the characters, feel the exhilaration of victory and the pain and disappointment of defeat and more.

Reflect on your own writing and your motivation for it. Whether fiction or non-fiction, start with the audience and what you think they know or need to know. Carefully construct your story to engage them in a new experience that will alter their belief system or their perception of the world. Examine every detail and choose words that bring that detail to life in living color, feeling and conclusion. When the story is written, go back and edit it with this in mind, then edit it again and again until it compels the reader to turn the pages. Have others look at it before you publish it and ask them for suggestions to make it stronger. Make something known, express your self – write on.