I spend a lot of my time looking at interviews about my favorite writers. I was on The Paris Review when I found an interview with good old Philip Larkin. I love Larkin’s poems, if you haven’t read any, you are probably missing out.
Anyway, despite being a bit of a grumpy old man when it comes to people asking him questions, The people at The Paris Review did eventually manage to get an interview. Larkin took five months to write the answers to the questions because, in his words, they were “suffocatingly boring.”
I was scrolling down the page when I saw a question that piqued my interest…
Why do you write, and for whom?
To which Larkin replied;
The short answer is that you write because you have to. If you rationalize it, it seems as if you’ve seen this sight, felt this feeling, had this vision, and have got to find a combination of words that will preserve it by setting it off in other people. The duty is to the original experience. It doesn’t feel like self-expression, though it may look like it. As for whom you write for, well, you write for everybody. Or anybody who will listen.
I like how Larkin refers to the process of writing as a need, I imagine many people who blog, or write poems and stories in their notebooks, feel that yearning to get those thoughts swimming round in their heads onto the page. Larkin’s work seems to stem from a need to capture a moment in time, a shard of reality and then find the right way to save and express the emotions of that scene to people who weren’t there, to ‘anybody who will listen’ if you will.
Why do I write? That’s a good question, and one that’s hard to put a finger on. Enjoyment definitely factors in on it. My poems, especially the Haikus and Cinquains are ways for me to put feelings and scenes into a concise and easy to read form. To me it feels like self-expression, it is gratifying to get those things out onto the page, it also helps me to sleep. When it comes to writing the odd bit of short fiction, or longer fiction, I find its more about challenging my imagination. Sometimes I like to write things that are controversial, sometimes I like to write things that challenge the reality of the day-to-day lives of my characters.
This, of course, is the magic of first drafts, getting those ideas out onto the page. Then comes the painstaking process of editing and cutting out all those wonderful words that drunkenly spilled forth from your mind.
Kill all your darlings
As William Faulkner said. I am terribly guilty of being a bad editor, but if you ever hope to get anywhere with your writing it has to be done!
As for whom I write for, all you lovely people, but mainly for myself I think. I do believe I’d go mad, talk to myself even more than I do now if I didn’t write.
So why do you wonderful people write? and whom for?
Thanks for reading.