Ready to write some fiction? That’s fantastic. Bon voyage, intrepid scribe. I hope you pass The Great Gatsby on the highway and leave it wheezing in your rearview.
Before you get too far, though, ask yourself: why am I doing this? There are some compelling reasons to write fiction. And there are some crummy ones. If you’re planning to summon the time and energy required to write something, know your motivations.
Let’s look first at some of the more misguided reasons to write fiction.
3 Misguided Reasons to Write Fiction
To make money. Writing fiction is not a business model. If you want to make money — and who doesn’t — then open a hot dog stand or a shoe store. People always need to eat and walk around, regardless of what else is happening in their lives. They don’t always need to read fiction.
To show off. No one finds it interesting that you can balance a ball on your nose. That sort of content is already clogging all of the Interwebs. When someone spends time reading your book, they’re probably looking for more than a demonstration of your pathological need to perform.
To court applause. Serious writers don’t much care if others approve of them or not. If you’re writing to please other people, open the nearest incinerator and slip your manuscript right in. Until you’re ready to teach something rather than chase a good grade, you aren’t ready to write for an audience.
Now let’s consider some of the more inspired reasons to take a stab at your magnum opus.
3 Inspired Reasons to Write Fiction
To discover. Art is like life in that it is a journey from one place to another. We have no idea what we will find as we saunter down that road. We’re blindly learning something new at every turn. So write fiction to discover new things. Write it to make sense of your life and the lives of your readers. Do it, as Kurt Vonnegut said, “to make your soul grow.”
To communicate. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? We don’t know. But if you have learned something universal from your journey, do your best to “make a sound” and communicate it to other people. Share your experiences so others might benefit from them, too.
To be yourself. Let’s face it, the world doesn’t always reward you for being yourself. But the act of being yourself — of doing what you need to do, for your own reasons — is an immense reward in itself. Write the book no other person could write. Convey that singular perspective to the world.
Writing original fiction is a path of discovery. It is a way of learning about yourself and of connecting with others. Whether you’re penning short fiction or a novel, the process of writing will educate you. It will make you wiser. And if you do it for the right reasons, who knows — it might change you in ways you never imagined.