Why do we write?

Us writers, artists, creators of all sorts… we’re a curious branch of the human species. We are content with basking in solitude so that we may create something collectively greater than our being. I’m reminded, when ruminating on the reasons for artistic creation, by this quote:

“Writing is a struggle against silence.” – Carlos Fuentes

It is, indeed. The other day I watched an interview on BBC World News’ Talking Books. In it, the author being interviewed discussed how he believed that all writers are “tortured souls” – that we are very distinct from the rest of the population: we’re happy to remain, for prolonged periods of time, alone in a room. Writers are never content with the world they live in; they’re always seeking out new places, dreaming up new universes in which the possibilities of their imagination may exist. They feel compelled to write, to escape in the torrent of words.

Writing and designing, two facets of my life that occupy most of my attention, have brought me to realise the struggle that artistic creation can bring: it’s a constant frustration, a feeling that the mechanics you’ve implied upon the subject you’re defining are crumbling in upon themselves; that sometimes, perhaps it’s just easier to start-over. I’ve had many re-starts in creative endeavours. My writing folder on my MacBook is littered with false-starts of manuscripts that will perhaps never see the light of day. But then I think upon the quote above – the “struggle against silence.” Often, instead of just giving up on the thing you’re creating, it’s better to persevere with it, to just go with the flow of the creative experience, and see where that stream takes you.

So then, why do we write? Why do we paint, draw, design? Perhaps it’s because, even though it can be a struggle, against frustration, against silence, it’s a struggle we enjoy: the challenge of creating something out of nothing, that romantic notion of contributing, or commenting, on the human experience, draws us like moths to the flame.


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