The vast majority answered that question with something along the lines of "Because I have to. It's who I am."
While that answer might be true (and it's one I've used) I think ultimately it's a lazy answer. Everyone says it, including the people who quit. Identifying yourself as a writer because that's just who you are is a little like saying "I'm in love, I just can't help it." Something will eventually come along to destroy that shaky foundation.
It's shaky, because as people we change all the time. Circumstances change us, tragedy changes us, life in general changes us. Especially those of us who are not content with the status quo. As long as we seek to grow, we will change.
Linking your writing exclusively to your identity is also dangerous. If the writing goes away for some reason, such as sickness or carpal tunnel, your identity goes poof. Without knowing why you write, you cannot find other ways to scratch that itch when writing becomes unavailable. And it becomes harder to find reasons to continue in the face of rejection and discouragement.
So, being the closet mad scientist I am, I kept asking questions.
How do you feel NOW! Bwahahaha!
I was trying to determine how much of what we call "the writing life" I could take away before people gave up. What was most important to you about writing? I found three basic things.
1. The joy of creating
This was the first thing I took away, and a couple of people stopped right there. Even if no one ever read them, these people wanted to keep writing for sheer joy of it. BUT, they had more specific responses then just "that's who I am." My favorite response was Wendy who said simply
"I write so I can sleep."
2. Connecting with readers
This was the thing most of my commenters valued overall. They chose connecting with readers over never having writer's block, and then again chose connection over earning money. I imagine that a lot of writers write because they want to connect with others. They want to share the dreams and visions that spin inside their heads. They want to read other's dreams and visions and be swept away.
3. Earning money.
A few people chose to give up the joy of creation and settle for a small audience as long as they could earn money. What I found most interesting about those people was that they equated earning money with being able to continue to write. It wasn't so much that they wanted riches as they wanted to be able to live the life of a full time writer. As long as they were still writing, and had at least some audience, they were happy.
So those were my conclusions from the grand "why do you do this" experiment.
Have I missed anything? What did you learn this week?
(Joanne asked me on Monday where I stood on these things, and I fully intend to answer. In a separate post. On Saturday. )