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Why Write 

By Keith Gray

We’re writers because we write. That’s the only qualification you need to be a writer: writing. Not all of us will be published. But that should never be the one and only end goal for a writer.

For better or worse we all crave legitimacy in whatever we endeavour to do. We feel the need for validation and hunger after the sound of applause. And as a writer there’s an unfortunate idea that we don’t deserve any of it until we are published. Publication is seen as proof of ability and identification of talent – the be-all and the end-all of the writing process. This way of thinking can unfortunately lead to a slippery, spiralling hole of inevitable disappointment. Even if we don’t have Penguin or Beltz & Gelberg knocking down our doors, creative writing has so much joy and pleasure to offer us, the writers.

Let’s have a think about the reasons why we write.

Because we’re readers

Personally, I started writing books because I loved reading them. My first attempts at writing stories and books was by emulating my favourite authors and wishing to reproduce the same emotions in my (hoped-for) readers that these authors elicited in me. It was always a sharing thing for me. I wanted to share great stories – and was foolhardy/naïve/daring enough to believe I could write them.

I don’t believe that my starting point is in any way unusual. In fact, I’ve never met another writer who wasn’t a reader first. Stories are forever reproducing, cloning, multiplying. Poetry breeds poets. Writing inspires writers.

And you don’t have to be a mega-famous published author to share your writing. Just take a read of some of the great stuff on the rest of this SWC Blog.

Because we want to escape

I can be sexy. I can save the world. I can cure disease. I can forget about my mortgage, forget about my allergy to cats, forget about the freezer that needs defrosting while I’m writing. I can fly, shoot lasers from my butt and even fall in love with totally inappropriate people of whom my mother wouldn’t approve. I can be and do and experience everything on the page that I may not be able to experience in real life. And I can be the good guy while I do it.

Or I can be the bad guy… I can experience dark and dangerous sides of life that I’d never be brave enough, stupid enough, immoral enough to seek out in the real world. I can let go and be free of any and all responsibility. Every time I write I climb inside another person’s head and watch from inside out what happens to them and their world.

Because we are inevitably, inescapably ourselves

Paradoxically, whatever we write, we will still be forever us. You are the only person for whom you’ll never need to imagine or invent empathy. Which obviously means, that if you’re honest, you are perhaps the best person for you to write about.

Digging deep we can explore our actions, the links in historic chain of our life those actions led to, the people around us we affected (for better or worse) and our hopes, beliefs and dreams for our own future.

Who are you? Write to find out. But be truthful. And if you can’t be truthful, or would rather not be, well it immediately tells you something important about yourself, doesn’t it…?

Because we enjoy a mental workout

I don’t care what anyone says, writing isn’t easy. It takes a lot of brainpower and effort and dedication. None of which are simple to come by.

Crosswords can be fun (maybe sudoku too, if you’re that way inclined). But finding that exact, perfect, engaging, essential, moving, thought-provoking, gooey, sticky, stinky, lustrous, shiny, stimulating, expressive, beautiful word which fits the weirdly-shaped gap in your emotional jigsaw puzzle of a story or poem can be really very tough.

Writers enjoy thinking hard. They enjoy keeping the mind muscles pumped. And there’s a decent amount of evidence out there that we can stave off ailments like Alzheimer’s thanks to our personal creative gyms of the mind.

Because we need to feel creative

There is a school of thought that argues creativity is an addiction, or even that creative people are more likely to suffer from addiction. Would I ever claim I’m personally addicted to writing stories? Oh yes absolutely 100%! How do I know this? Because I’m acutely aware of what a bloody awful person I am if I haven’t written enough that day, or if my writing’s going ‘badly’, or if I ‘just can’t get into it’.

I don’t feel ‘right’ when I’ve not written. I’ve got too much in my head that I feel I want to get down on the page. Because I’ll be spending too much time thinking about my imagined world rather than taking part in the real world and I’ll make mistakes, be clumsy, be overly-sensitive. I need to write to exorcise the imaginary people and happenings inside my head so that I can fully engage with the real world stuff.

The writing Flow is utterly addictive too. You know, when the words appear as if by magic and you ‘step into’ the page and you don’t notice the scribble of the pen or the tap of the keys and you literally hear voices while the time…



And the problem with the Flow is that it doesn’t happen every time you write. But you hope it will. And so you keep writing trying to achieve that Flow again. And again.

And again…

… And you’re addicted.

Because we’d be a different person if we didn’t write

Lord Byron wrote: ‘If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.’

Stephen King claimed: ‘I’d make a damn good serial killer if I wasn’t a writer.’

Margaret Atwood said: ‘I write about awful people sometimes and I’ve found it a particularly useful way of reminding myself not to be one of them.’

Sherman Alexie stated: ‘I have to spend so much of my life doing stuff I’d rather avoid and know I’m pretty terrible at doing anyway. But I write because I want to, and yeah I know I may not be the world’s best writer by a long stretch, but at least I can be me while I’m doing it.’

Because we want to be part of a community

I know you know exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned the Flow above. Because I’m sure you’ve been in it. I might struggle to explain it in such abstract terms to someone who’s not a writer. So being around fellow novelists, story-tellers, poets, like-minded addicts can often feel like you’re among friends.

We try hard here at Sunday Writers’ Club to have as much of a community feeling as we can (and stick with us, we are working to grow it). Please do engage with us and your fellow SWCers. Join in as many of our events and sessions as you can. Submit to our Blog. Read our Blog and leave a comment and a Like. Join our Discord group. Ask questions at a Meet the Professional event.

We can help provide accountability buddies, proof readers, feedback groups, friendships. You will get out of our small community much more than you put in if you’re willing to engage. Why write alone?


And by way of conclusion I’m simply going to repeat what I wrote above because it is sooooo true and definitely worth repeating:

We’re writers because we write. That’s the only qualification you need to be a writer: writing. Not all of us will be published. But that should never be the one and only end goal for a writer.

Happy Writing!

Keith Gray

Keith Gray

Sunday Writers' Club Team Member and Author

Keith is an author from the UK best known for his award-winning novels for children and teenagers. He’s published over 20 books which have been translated into a dozen languages and has edited 2 anthologies of short stories for Young Adult readers. His novel ‘Ostrich Boys’ was adapted for the stage and played to sell-out audiences in such far-flung places as Birmingham, Seoul and Mumbai. He’s traveled to book festivals all over the world promoting reading, writing and literature to teachers, teenagers, parents, librarians and anybody else who’d listen. You can find out more about Keith on the Sunday Writers’ Club “About” page here.


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