Why I Write

I have to admit I was overwhelmed by the responses to Friday’s Q4U post. I wasn’t able to read them as they were coming in since I was busy on the ski slopes (someone has to support Colorado’s #1 industry), but I read them all on Sunday and took some time to think about them. And then I realized maybe I should contribute my own thoughts on the subject of why we write.

I write to be read. That’s it. I want to communicate, and I think everyone does. Like Chatty Kelly commented, “I like to talk. I like to be heard.” Like Mark Adair wrote, “I think we all have 2 basic needs: to be loved and appreciated AND to love and appreciate others.” Like XDPaul said, “There is, in my opinion, absolutely no reason whatsoever to sacrifice one’s spine, fingers, mind, relationships and time in pounding out 90,000 words of fiction except to be read.”

I’ve always written, but I’ve never had any interest in writing for myself. Communicating with others is where it’s at for me. I’ve never wanted my name on the cover of a book. I’ve never dreamed of making a living from my words alone. But since I loved words and reading and writing, I always found ways to be involved with books and writers without having to do all the writing myself.

I’ve ghostwritten eight books; six of them have my name in the acknowledgments, two don’t mention me anywhere, none has my name on the cover. None of that matters to me. I just really liked writing them, and they were a way to use my natural gifting to help support my family.

I’ve been blogging for nearly three years now. (I had another blog before this one.) This is the bulk of the writing I do, except for email, and it fulfills my need to communicate just fine.

But I also understand that publication is the ultimate validation and stamp of approval that most writers are looking for. It’s a perfectly natural desire. We all need to know that what we’re doing matters. Commercial publication serves as that validation.

I particularly agree with the following comments left on Friday’s post:

“Publishing is not the stamp of approval that God has called someone to write.” (Jen)

“Being published isn’t a calling. It’s a recognition that what you have produced is commercially feasible.” (Barbara Early)

“Writing is God-made. Publishing is man-made.” (Liz.)

Everyone has their own answers to these sticky issues, and I appreciate your sharing them with me. Tomorrow we’ll move on to something else. Meanwhile, if you think of any other provocative questions I could pose on the blog, leave them in the comments. Thanks!
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Achim Zahren on March 3, 2009 at 3:16 PM

    >Here is a blog idea for you. What do you think of websites that charge a fee and allow writers to upload a portion of their manuscript for review by agents and publishers? Do you ever have time to look at these? Are they useful to you, productive? Thanks.

  2. Skribblegurl on March 3, 2009 at 12:24 PM

    >I obviously missed the first round of comments but thought I’d leave one here anyway.
    I write because I have only felt God distinctly touching my heart with the desire to do something a few times in my life. One of these times was when I was 12 and stood outside star-gazing with my family. I wanted to get the beauty of the sky onto paper, and God whispered, “You’re going to be an author.”
    I write because God called me to. I’m pursuing publishing because I believe He has called me to do so. And phooey on any person who dislikes my writing, because I’m writing to please Him, not man.

  3. Randy Mortenson on March 2, 2009 at 2:14 PM

    >Do other writers on here also journal or keep a diary for their eyes only? I do. Most of my writing is to communicate with others–to be read. But I keep a journal and several notebooks of jottings for me and me alone. My “need” to write often spills into those. It’s kind of a writing compost heap; not meant for others but can fertilize what I do write for others.

    One question: Are there too many blogs?
    2. Who has time to read them all?
    3. How many blogs do most blog readers read?
    4. What’s next? I mean, if blogs are the thing of now…is there something else coming (beyond facebook and twitter too)?
    That last question is inspired by the “Did You Know?” video you posted. Fascinating.

  4. Andrew on March 2, 2009 at 2:07 PM

    >Provocative question – here’s one…

    How do you justify the time you spend with characterts that exist only in your mind, when you have friends, family and colleagues who are just begging for your time and love?

    I haven’t been able to answer that, except in the ‘positively mercenary’ manner…I’m trying to make more money so that my family will have security when I’m gone.

    It’s not a good enough answer.

  5. Sharon A. Lavy on March 2, 2009 at 1:52 PM

    >As someone who once belonged to a cult that believed the world would end in 1975 let me remind you that the scriptures tell us to occupy until He comes.

    If he comes for me today, may I be busy doing His will for me for today.

  6. T. Anne on March 2, 2009 at 1:00 PM

    >It’s so nice to hear about your own writing Rachelle. I would love to know the titles of the books you’ve helped author.

    Not to sound like a cynic (sp?) but somedays I feel why bother writing at all? Somedays it just plain feels like the final moments before Christ’s return, just the thought leaves a patina of destitution to the whole writing process for me. But I proceed. Not out of vanity or because I like the clicking sound when I hit the keyboard or because I think I’m the next great American novelist, but because Jesus said to occupy. Not occupy as in waist your time, but in the keep living life kind of way. Thank goodness what I do to occupy brings me much joy. I’m reaching out and grabbing all the joy I can in every area of my life these days.

    Thanks for the great blog Rachelle!

  7. J. Mayhew on March 2, 2009 at 12:10 PM

    >I really enjoyed those quotes…and I think they’re right. Very well put.

  8. lynnrush on March 2, 2009 at 11:59 AM

    >Nice post. I enjoyed reading the comments from Friday.

    Thanks for sharing! Hope you had fun on the slopes.

  9. RefreshMom on March 2, 2009 at 11:31 AM

    >Nicely summarized. I wanted to respond, but couldn’t seem to get out an answer that was shorter than a novella.

    I’ve had my name on the spine of a few books (my first-ever proposal was picked up by a major publisher at my first big conference), and had it buried inside. I’ve had a self-imposed hiatus as life changed and my energy was required elsewhere. I have been writing of late ‘just to communicate’ via my blog. In many ways the blog is more satisfying than publication because there’s the aspect of ‘immediate gratification’ in the form of reader feedback that definitely doesn’t come from having books published. I’m ready to undertake the publication endeavor again, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all for my writing. It was interesting seeing the various perspectives on the topic.

    I don’t know if you’ve addressed this before I was a follower, but I’d be interested in hearing your opinion on “The Writer’s Edge” and similar services. Are editors actually reading, or does it just make writers feel better to think there’s a ‘chance’ their work will be seen?

  10. Sharon A. Lavy on March 2, 2009 at 11:10 AM

    >I enjoy your thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Christi on March 2, 2009 at 10:29 AM

    In light of how difficult it can be to carve out time in the day to write, I have a “provocative question” for a future blog.

    How does your family react to the amount of time it takes to write?

    I ask this because I was recently interupted seventeen times in one hour, an hour I was supposed to be left alone to write.

    Thank you,

  12. Stephanie Reed on March 2, 2009 at 9:32 AM

    >I think this thread at Verla Kay’s Children’s Writers’ and Illustrators’ Chat Board has some pretty provocative questions:


    The thread started out with a question about Christian Manuscript Submissions, whether this service is legitimate.

  13. Karen on March 2, 2009 at 7:53 AM

    >Thanks for your summary, Rachelle. I wholeheartedly agree. I write to be read. Perhaps it’s like that proverbial tree in the forest. If you write and aren’t read, have you really communicated anything?