Why Do You Write?

Every writer has a story to tell. This is why they write. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is a great example of this. His adventure is filled with his experiences as a child and the war. 

But what’s your particular story? What’s the driving force behind your deep urge to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard nowadays)? 

pixar's wall-eSomething I’ve been thinking about and reading about often lately is Pixar’s storytelling process. Honestly, as I was walking out of the theater after seeing Lightyear, I was stunned. They’ve really mastered proper storytelling. How do they do it? And every time? There’s a formula and they follow it to a T. What makes their stories truly compelling are their characters. But what’s the driving force behind these characters you quickly learn to love? How do they do it? 

So I’ve started reading and researching and eventually came across Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling. (Also, check out Creativity, Inc. by Edwin Catmull if you haven’t already). And their 14th rule? “Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.”

WOW. Yeah, you’re right, Pixar. That IS the heart of storytelling. 

What’s your why? We’ve all seen Simon Sinek’s TedTalk, but if you haven’t, I’ll leave it right here for you. You can–and should–apply this to your creative writing as well. In a nutshell, we all know our whats and hows. How are you writing? Cool, paper or laptop. What are you writing? Yes, I can’t stop writing dragon stories. But what about your why? Why you’re writing is where the passion and the heart comes in. Readers react to the emotion of your story and how it makes them feel. Words alone don’t drive their love for your story. It’s why you write your story, because your soul just pours out onto the page.

I encourage you to start thinking about your why. If you’re not quite sure, start asking yourself more questions. What prompted this idea? Was it something someone said or a cool thought experiment? Then ask, why is it compelling to you? 

Why does this story haunt you? 

I recently just started working with a new author and when I asked her why she felt she needed to tell this particular science fiction story, she thought for a second and then proceeded to tell me about a really important and meaningful time in her life. Reflecting on that time, she realized that this small story idea now had essence. She found it easier to outline and to write. There is now an authenticity to her writing that wasn’t there before.

Understanding the why behind your story means you can start to consider what specifically makes you feel passionate about it. When you understand the nuances of your why, not only will your story be easier for you to tell, but your readers can start to feel the heart and soul you’re putting into it. Once you know your why, you can start considering your whats and hows.