The Importance of Being Earnest: The Fiction Writer’s Purpose

Rose asked a question that I set aside, just for this article:

Personally, I’m looking for something that reminds me why I wrote in the first place since I’ve recently come to a crossroads in my life. If you can write stuff about the spirit of writing and what writing really means…

This is where I ultimately wanted to spin this series. Why does a writer write? What’s our purpose?

When Logic Gets in the Way

I’m a creative person. But I’m also a technical, logical person. This is good for the day job (technical writer), but not always so good for the creative side of things. I often get stuck on whether something I’m doing or creating has a purpose. I measure something’s worth based on the outcome and what it can do for other people. This includes my writing.

I suppose many writers are a bit like that. We search for an audience and hope our words have meaning for someone else. But what do you, as a writer, do when your logical side tells you to “stop that silly scribbling” or whatnot? How do you personally tackle the question of whether your writing has purpose?

I think this is especially difficult when you feel like your work hasn’t found an audience (or maybe it’s found an audience that tends to be shy to respond and identify itself). That’s the tough thing about being a creator. You never know whose life you’ve touched because, often, the important changes you’ve made within someone else are invisible to you.

In that way, I suppose looking for a purpose in your writing requires you to have faith in your message, especially in the beginning.

Authors’ Answers

I decided to do something a little different for this article. I had a few answers when I asked myself “What’s the purpose of a fiction writer.” But I wanted to do some extra research and brainstorming before I wrote this post.

So I took the question and posted it up on the Writer’s Forum in the Kindle Boards. For the most part, I got a lot of really good replies (from a lot of writers I haven’t met before, so these are totally uninfluenced answers).

The take-away I got from this is that authors tend to agree on a writer’s purpose overall. Some of these purposes are to:

  • communicate moral codes
  • maintain traditions
  • feed the human imagination
  • entertain
  • inspire
  • make people think
  • experience places and situations normally not accessible
  • create and spread myths
  • teach
  • create an emotional response
  • tell the truth unencumbered by the facts
  • sort through the author’s life
  • allow the author to find comfort
  • explore the human condition
  • explore the effects of humans on the human condition
  • provide an outlet to driven authors who simply can’t NOT write
  • provide perspective on reality
  • heal and reassure others
  • provide a means for an author to communicate to a reader
  • offer shelter from the hardships of life
  • help people stay sane
  • get in touch with something higher and bigger than ourselves
  • connect human beings together

Wow. If that’s not an inspiring list of reasons writers need to keep writing, I don’t know what is!

Talk to Me

  • Can you see a few points above that fit the purpose of your stories?
  • Are there things on this list that you never even considered your work could do?
  • Are there things on the list that you might want to focus on more when you write and edit your work?