Why Bother Writing?

Despite the frustrations that come with writing, it is one of the most fulfilling activities I’ve ever found.

Writing is Often Frustrating

I expect that nearly everyone who has spent much time writing has felt frustrated by it at one time or another.

For every day I have that the ideas just flow out of me, there’s another day that I spend wrestling each and every word out of my brain and onto the page.

There are times when I think I’ve written something great, only to reread it the next day with total disappointment.

I’ve spent weeks working on a piece of writing and ended up with no readers when I finally publish it.

So, why bother writing at all?

I started thinking about this question after reading this excellent short post by Michael Shook:

I agree completely with his point, that writers don’t need to justify why they write. It also got me thinking about what my own reason for writing is.

The conclusion I came to is that I don’t have one “main” reason for writing, but instead do it because I find it fulfilling in a variety of ways.

If you’re looking for motivation to start or keep writing, maybe these reasons can work for you as well:

Writing Clarifies My Thinking

One of the things I love most about writing is that it helps me to better understand my own thoughts and life.

When I spend too much time inside my own head, I usually end up more confused than when I started.

Writing allows me to externalize and organize my thoughts into something that I can understand.

Sometimes when I write, I know exactly what I will say before I even start. Much more often though, I only have a vague idea of a topic, and I don’t even begin to get a sense of where I’m going until I start an outline.

These second types of writing are the ones that I find most fulfilling. Surprisingly, they’re also typically the ones that readers respond best to.

As an example of this process, I’ve been writing a lot lately about my sobriety. I’ve been sober for about two and a half years, but I’ve only been writing about it for the last half year of that.

Before I started writing, I had a lot of questions about my addiction: Why did I start drinking so much in the first place? How could I avoid going back to it? How had sobriety changed me?

I haven’t answered all of these questions for myself completely, but writing has allowed me to at least start answering them. I would never have gotten to that point if I had just thought about the questions instead.

Writing Allows Me To Share My Views

I don’t think I have all the answers or that I’m always right, but I do have strong opinions about several issues, and writing allows me to get those views heard.

Sobriety is one example, but the writing that I’m most proud of has been opinion pieces for local newspapers about criminal law.

I’m passionate about reforming America’s justice system, and as a lawyer who has worked in criminal law, I have a perspective and expertise that I truly believe is worth sharing.

I have never felt more fulfilled from my writing than after having one of these pieces published and seeing the responses it creates.

I know that realistically a few op-eds won’t be the tipping point for any particular issue, but I think that they do have a tangible effect of increasing awareness.

Writing Brings (A Little) Money

One of Michael’s main points in his article was that it’s okay if money is your motivation for writing.

I honestly don’t think it’s as important to me as the previous points, but it is definitely one of the things I like about writing.

I see a lot of writers and would-be writers focused on the question of whether you can earn a full-time income from writing. I certainly don’t.

Writing brings me a small side-income each month, and when I’ve tried working out the hourly wage, it’s pretty tiny. Even so, it’s a nice bonus.

There aren’t many hobbies that you can literally get paid to do.

If only I could find someone to pay me for reading books and slowly running around the park, I’d be set for life.

Writing Improves Communication Skills

Finally, I write to improve my communication skills.

It almost goes without saying that writing more will make you a more effective writer. In addition, though, I’ve noticed it improve my spoken communication.

Writing out my thoughts helps me to better understand how to organize my communication. I can see the structure behind an argument or an explanation, and learn how to improve that structure.

I’ve slowly gotten better at transferring that skill over to speaking, giving my oral communication some of that same clarity.

Writing helps me, in general, to think logically and cohesively.

The benefits of writing truly are life-changing. I’m sure others have additional great reasons for writing that I’ve missed, some of which apply to me too. Writing can be frustrating, but it’s easily worth the trade-off.

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more. Buy me a “coffee” at ko-fi.com/benyaclark.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store