Why Bother Writing Novels?

Before I begin today's topic, a quick note:

If you'd like to aid those affected by last week's tornadoes and floods, let me recommend Help Write Now, an auction put on by several members of the writing community. Some of those writers live in damaged or devastated areas. Proceeds benefit the Red Cross.

I'm donating a manuscript critique, and just may bid on some of the other items—some of which should appeal to writers, and others to readers. Want to help? Go on over and fill out their short-and-sweet donation form, and/or subscribe to the blog for auction news and items for bid.

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Being of the artistic personality and therefore clinically insecure, I spent some of this past week vacillating between the idea that I Suck and this question: Why bother writing novels, when there are so many in the world? The question could apply to keeping a blog, too. Not to mention creating poetry, art, musical composition, quilts, culinary presentation, dance, or anything else done more for beauty or expression or love of the work than for practical, measurable benefit.

Creation of beauty for its own sake is a deeply human and worthwhile process. Unfortunately, my response to that fact is sometimes along the lines of "Yes, but is my work beautiful enough to matter?!" Sometimes we need the silly personal reasons that keep us going when we think we're no good. Here are mine.

I write because:

...There are no brakes on the drive of an inborn writing tendency. I can't stop.

...The hunger for another good story grows with every one I read.

...Writing helps me process ideas and experiences better than almost anything else. And no big idea or experience is ever thoroughly processed until I've written my way through it.

...Words are just so beautiful when properly strung together.

...Other people's writings have built up my sanity and hope, and I want to pay that forward.

...My characters deserve to be known and loved, in my opinion (which is biased by motherly pride, of course).

...The pent-up nervous energy and emotion of the clinically insecure artist can really come in handy around an open Word document. Hey, don't knock it till you've tried it. :)

...and probably more reasons than I can think of now. My brain kept me awake till five AM and is now propped up on nothing but coffee.

Why do you write—or draw, or make music, or plant elaborate flower gardens, or otherwise create impractical beauty?


  1. "There are no brakes on the drive of an inborn writing tendency. I can't stop."

    That is of course the most basic and fundamental reason. My parents used to try to talk me out of 'wanting to be a writer' by emphasizing it's impracticality. I never listened to them on that point because:
    1. Being a writer is far more impractical than non-writers imagine.
    2. I knew there was no way I would be able to reason my way out of writing: I just can't stop.

    Also, I agree that my characters deserve to be known; the other part of that is that I want desperately to know my characters and discover them. (Okay, I've spiraled into the vaguely mentally unstable, so I'll stop now :) )

  2. True Beauty is never impractical, it's essential. It's either the current pope, or Von Balthasar who says the man who turns his back on beauty can "no longer pray, and soon will be unable to love." The need for beauty is built into our nature. The catechism reminds us that Truth is beauty itself. The creation of beauty for it's own sake is the pursuit of God, that's why so many artists can be complete atheists and still "get" God in a fuller sense than many professing Christians - they are training themselves to see as God sees.

    You should hunt down Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters to a young poet" - he gives a fantastic, and very kind, letter on why the writer must write.

    I thought it was funny too, your saying "being of the artistic personality and therefore clinically insecure.." I've always thought the opposite, the artistic personality as something unaffectedly over-confident. :)

    Great post!

  3. Wow! Amen to everything Masha just said. Yes, please keep writing and definitely keep blogging, if only for the sake of lurkers such as me.

  4. A few months ago I read this wonderful comment (and wish I'd copied it verbatim). But it was basically that the best sacred art was created by secular artists, because their art was for art's sake. This fits very much with what you write, Masha, about secular artists often "getting God" better than those who claim Him but are indifferent about the quality of their artistry. I see this all the time. Truth is truth, no matter the source or medium that expresses it.

    We create because we're made in the image of the Creator of everything. But how we create or the quality of our artistry says a lot about our aims. If we just want to parrot or propagate a message--call it artistic prosletyzation--we will be artistically confined to the message and our talents; mechanistic, without spark. But if we want to express the heart of God and truth, were dealing with fire, and only our best will do as we seek to get out of the way of interfering.. This is
    where the "clinical insecurity" comes in. We want to do our very best, but know that our best is not enough and will never be enough; only that divine spark will do. "Good enough" is not even on the table, and it will never satisfy hunger for God or endure.


  5. Annie, your reasons for never listening to the warnings about impracticality made me laugh. They're both just so true.

    I suspected the words "impractical beauty" might get some pushback, but I didn't expect the wholehearted, lovely defense of the necessity of beauty. Thanks, Masha. And thanks to Maria for encouraging me to keep writing--I've needed that this week--and Arabella for continuing Masha's point. I agree, Arabella. Good enough is simply not enough. Not for me.

  6. Beautifully said and just the inspiration needed.

  7. Thanks for coming by, Callie! I'm glad you enjoyed the piece. :)


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