Why Do Writers Write?

A blogger asked me to write about why I write. So I've been reading what other authors have said. George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm, wrote an essay on the subject that he opens by explaining the start of his storytelling impulse: "I had the lonely child's habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world . . . " 

Michael Chabon Reveals the Slow Method to Achieving Excellence

Several years ago, the keynote speaker at the Montgomery County Community College's Annual Writers Conference was none other than the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon. Upon hearing in advance that he wouldn't be allowed to entertain questions after his talk, he decided to make the talk itself into a question-and-answer session--with himself.

Raising his hand, his shoulders shrinking slightly with mock timidity, he asked, "Michael, where do you get your ideas?" and "Why do you write?" His wide-ranging answers gave listeners a rich introduction to his life and work.

The Inspiration/Perspiration Ratio

Back when I was in an MFA program, I took several workshops with novelist John Edgar Wideman. One afternoon, he told us something that rocked my naive writerly mind to its core. Talent is not the secret to success as a writer, he said. It would get us perhaps 5 percent of the way there. We could travel the remaining 95 percent of the way only through hard work--through years and years of persistent writing and revising, and years and years of submitting widely and enduring rejection. While occasional freak incidents might seem to prove otherwise, he said, such incidents are more than extremely unlikely.

How the Senses Come Into Play for Readers and Writers

A reader who believes in a story opens to it, mind and body. Novels have to work harder than films or television dramas to induce this openness; they can’t dismantle defenses with mood music and explosions. But they must induce openness, in order to get readers to climb aboard their carnival rides and stay until the end. The fiction writer’s first job is to enable readers to open to a story.

Don't Erase Women's History

If history's women hadn't been delegated the tasks of home and family - and jointly valorized for and consumed by this work - perhaps it wouldn't strike me as an outrage when a historic home bears the name of its adult male occupant alone and when women are left out of its description. But America's historic homes were built when a woman's near-magical homemaking properties were much lauded - in a centuries-long campaign advocating women's place within their walls. How is it that, in the names and summaries affixed to the locations where women labored - lacking basic civil rights, a fact that helped lock them in their "place" - their crucial lives disappear?