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Why Writers Write

Jennifer Egan compares writing to exercising - people who write

Author Jennifer Egan compares writing to exercising

A recent rash of articles have come out about writers on writing. (Or maybe it just feels that way since a large swath of my Facebook friends are writers.) Karen Bender’s “The Accidental Writer” was popular on my Facebook news feed as I and my writer friends picked out the author’s lovely expression of why it is we write, and why it’s important:

Giving shape to a painful experience is powerful because it helps us to see first, how we got through it; second, how we can share it. The experience doesn’t stay trapped within us, unspoken, curdling — instead, the art of arranging and transforming it reduces the burden. It no longer belongs to only you. The process of assigning the experience a beginning, a middle and an end, of giving it form, is a way of mastering it. Each sentence contains the chaos — our experience becomes what we perceive. And the honesty in these perceptions, whether true or invented, creates a bridge to another person. 

Yesterday, David L. Ulin at the Los Angeles Times also examined the why, pulling quotes on the topic from a short list of contemporary bestselling writers including Jennifer Egan (“Exercising is a good analogy for writing…If you’re not used to exercising you want to avoid it forever. If you’re used to it, it feels uncomfortable and strange not to.”) and James Frey (“I’m really not qualified to do anything else.”)

But a recent quote resonated with me most, from a New York Times book review by Kevin Baker: “We paint from life, not because we are so small but because God is so great.”

Why do you write?


3 responses to “Why Writers Write

  1. indytony

    “We paint from life, not because we are so small but because God is so great.” What a lovely quote.

    To borrow an expression from writing teacher Mark Tredinnick, I write “to make beautiful sense of the world.”

  2. “I write to affirm…I choose to write about people whose values I respect; my pleasure is to bear witness to their lives.” — William Zinsser, author of The Writer Who Stayed, as told to the Wall Street Journal

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