Why do you write?

I was speaking to my brother on the phone the other day about a post on a blog we both follow called Life of Johnston.
She starts her post with the following:
“I only started this online diary as a publicity stunt for my books. Yet fame continues to elude me. It seems that a genius for self-promotion requires something more than a complete lack of modesty. You have to do things, and I’m not sure what. I keep trying to think of ways to become notorious without actually ruining my life. Nothing occurs.”

She has a whole collection of books online, one of which I proudly own (kindle version). Although I have yet to publish a book, I wonder if her ruminations over that elusive fame will also play a roll in my future.

“I liked your last blog post,” my brother said.
“Then why don’t you give it a star, or leave a comment online?” I asked.
“Is that important to you? That people leave comments?” In response to my brother’s simple question, I launched into a long winded answer one might usually reserve for an essay on the importance of blogging. I originally started my blog as a means to share my thoughts and experiences as an American living in Holland. But as my ambitions as a writer have grown, so have my intentions for my blog.

I explained that the more comments and stars I get, the higher ranking my blog will receive, and thus the higher chance of attracting more readers. I told him that I have a goal to make a living from writing, plan to develop a career in that direction and that a blog is a free first step; a tool to practice writing, share your thoughts and develop a following. He promised to give my different blog posts lots of stars after we got off the phone.

Creativity runs in the family. My brother is an artist and we have four of his paintings in our flat in the Netherlands. Nevermind that the beautiful landscape paintings of Southern California painted in the rich palettes of a sun-kissed land give me bouts of homesickness. They also bring me joy in a way that flowers do–they exude beauty and remind me to take a breath, visit nature or call my family.

But in answering his question of why I write, I started to second guess myself; was I writing for myself or for other people? Or both? I have written short stories on and off my whole life, most taking a few kb of space on a computer or disc, never seen by others. Thus I write for myself. But whenever I had articles published in Food and Home magazine or regional architectural magazines, I shared them with friends and family alike, looking forward to their comments, and yes, hoping they would be impressed. There. I’ve admitted it. I like to hear what people think of my writing. I think most authors do.

Like the author of Life of Johnston, I also self promote my blog. I share certain posts on Facebook or twitter or mention them to friends. I even have a personal business card with my blog address on the back.

“Don’t you get excited when your paintings are in a show and people see them?” I asked my brother.
“Well. Yeah. Of course,” he responded. “But I don’t paint for other people. I paint because I love painting.” But a painting stands on a wall in someone’s home for years to come. It is an art piece that draws attention, changes with the light; is attached to that period in life when the painting was acquired and gains both monetary and emotional value over time. An artist’s creative work endures.

Writing on the other hand, has both ephemeral and long-lasting possibilities. An article written for a newspaper may be read the day it is printed and is soon forgotten if no online counterpart exists. But writing also has longevity. Take Jane Austen’s works, for example, which remain a staple of English literature close to 200 years after her death.

As I work on the final draft of my first novel of 300 pages that I hope to birth into the world this September, I too have hopes; hopes that people will not only read it, but enjoy it; that they will not be shy to share their comments with me and will whole-heartedly recommend it to others. One can only hope. And self-promote.