Friday, 30 January 2009

WHY WE WRITE

John Irving’s friend once told him that everything he did except writing was going to be vaguely unsatisfying. How pretentious, I thought at first. And wrong. What about smelling the first cut grass of spring, knowing the cricket season approaches; the first sip of ale after a day’s trek across Dartmoor; reading a William Trevor story by an open fire. And so on. But then I realised his emphasis was on ‘vaguely’, as if not doing it would defy Irving’s nature somewhat; that he’d ache with something’s absence. Now, I certainly wasn’t born to write; it’s not particularly in my blood, or anywhere else: I’ve looked. Nor would I use affected hyperbole such as ‘writing chose me’. But it’s what I do. I need to do it almost as much as I need to read. Which begs the question: why?

John Fowles addresses the reader in The French Lieutenant’s Woman thus:

"I’m a novelist, not a man in the garden.

[N]ovelists write for countless different reasons. For money*, for fame, for reviewers, for parents, for friends, for loved ones; for vanity, for pride, for curiosity, for amusement.

Only one same reason is shared by all of us: we wish to create worlds as real as, but other than, the world that is. Or was."

* Really?

Do we write to be read? Well, yes, mostly. I don’t know many contented writers whose work never sees the light of day. We have (at least we think so) something to say.

Again, the pretentious might suggest writers search for truth, which I’d agree with to some extent. For me, though, it always comes from reading someone else, reading something so remarkable, so utterly compelling, that I want to see if I can produce this effect in another. That and a violent dislike for being in an office.

2 comments:

Annie Wicking said...

What a great blog you have here!

What is the title of your first novel and what is it about?

Annie

TOM J VOWLER said...

Thank you, Annie. Looking forward to checking yours out.

My first, as yet unpublished, novel is called Child B. It does suffer from something remarkably similar being published not long ago. Writing it was a real learning curve, lessons I'm employing this time around. Oh, and it almost made it onto Richard and Judy, but that's another story.

Thanks for stopping by.