It’s not enough to write. You have to write with purpose.
What Do You Want?
When you shut the door and ease yourself down in front of that keyboard, or when you hunch over an unsullied notebook page and begin to throttle the life out of a pen, what’s your end goal? What do you want from the experience of shuffling the words from your head onto the paper?
Because you really should have a purpose when you write, even if it’s just a small one. After all, everything else in your life has purpose. The act of creation should be no different.
Action and Reaction
We often talk about Creativity as a beautiful abstract; a quirk of human nature which, like whistling or the ability to bake jam tarts, doesn’t need any reason to exist, but it’s pleasurable that it does. It’s easy to think of Creativity as the opposite of Work or The Day Job – the anti-matter to what matters, as it were.
It’s the ball pit that the “Real You” can collapse into and frolic once your average Joe office persona has been left on a hangar at the door: a place where we can express freely and enjoyably in pen or paint or percussion, all without consequence.
But Creativity needs consequence. In fact it craves it, because Creativity is just the element. The force which needs to be channelled. It’s like fire: you can let it burn rampant and freely, or you can focus it to do productive things. Without purpose to what you’re doing you’re just burning up imagination.
So what do I mean by purpose? No doubt some of you are thinking that I’m going to say that Creativity must have some sort of financial gain as its goal. While being paid to imagine is certainly one of the most rewarding purposes, as well as a validation of a passion which many of us would appreciate, it’s far from the only one.
Write To Entertain
You want to entertain people with your stories. In the old days this was difficult, but now to write for sheer entertainment’s sake is easy. Anyone can start a blog, or join in on a fan-fiction site, and start getting electronic exposure (and feedback) to your work. Knowing that there are people out there who you are writing directly for, who read and enjoy your work, is one of the best purposes there is. Of course the best way to get your work seen by as many people as possible is to…
Write To get Published
Most everyone who writes wants to be published. And why shouldn’t they? It’s not only a way to entertain as many people as possible, but it’s a sign of success in your endeavours; proof that all your hard work has been worth it. It’s all very well and good to have friends or internet strangers tell you they like your work, but to get a professional seal of approval is hugely fulfilling.
Plus it’s nice to earn a little money. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to earn a little money from your writing (though ‘little’ is the operative word here). It’s when you write only with the sole purpose of making money that you’re going down the wrong path.
If you write with the purpose to get published, and to be in the mindset that whatever you’re writing is going to be seen by every publisher and agent and editor it’ll give a great deal more focus to your work and force you to really concentrate on making what you’re doing the best it can be.
Write To Highlight Something Important
The world is bleeding with problems big and small, personal and ubiquitous. Sometimes we’re affected so much by a problem, be it our own or another’s, but feel so impotent in the face of it, that all we can do is write about it. Highlighting a cause or a problem is a great purpose to your words.
Don’t forget, some of the most powerful messages about injustices have come in the form of fiction (think Dickens, Gaskell), and sometimes great texts are created simply because of something profoundly unpleasant that has affected the author directly.
Write To Detox
In recent years the academic notion has arisen that the enjoyment of writing is actually a therapy in itself; a sort of stress release or brain detox, wherein your problems are alleviated or sublimated through the act of writing about them, or by escaping into fantasy temporarily and having some semblance of control in your life by controlling a story. Writing with the purpose of clearing your head? Sounds pretty good.
No doubt you enjoy writing anyway, else you wouldn’t do it, but writing to relax and release all the aggression and stress and worry from your head onto the page is a different purpose. It’s relaxation therapy that you are in control of – an hour or two every so often where you can let go and see what your brain produces when it isn’t thinking numbers and commutes.
In fact it may be that you write your best stuff under the purpose of a healthy emotional release, pouring raw thoughts and feelings onto the paper and then going and editing back at a later date. Not only have you cleared your mind, but you might have come up with something for others to enjoy.
I can’t stress how important it is to find a goal to your writing (perhaps one I’ve no doubt neglected to include here), and lock on to it. As a species we thrive when we have something to work for. As creators we work best when we have a void we feel needs filling with light and thought.
So find your own purpose. It’ll make the lonely hours in front of the keyboard feel all the more worthwhile, and it’ll really add some fuel to your writing.
Please let us know your thoughts, and your own purposes for writing, in the comments below.
Robert Smedley is a TV Reviewer and Writer. When not staring at moving images or being creative with ink, he can be found at any bar that serves a good martini.