Thursday, 7 March 2013

Why Write?

Today is World Book Day. If you haven't heard of it, it's a worldwide celebration of reading and all things related, ie books, authors etc. 

I'm all for celebrations. My good friend and narcissistic publisher Edie Tor is marking the day by having the complete works of ELJames tattooed on her body, but I wouldn't go that far. For one thing, ELJames is hardly my benchmark for literary merit*, even if she has sold cartloads of copies. And for another, I come out in hives when I put transfers on my wrist, so tattoos might just be fatal.

I'm all for reading, however. Far better to stimulate the imagination than pig out on junk telly. And with the advent of ebooks and KSP, the choice of reading material has never been wider. Which begs the question: With an ocean of books out there, should anyone be bothering to write more?

Of course "should" never enters into it, does it? If people feel the need to do something, for whatever obscure and indefinable reason, they tend to just go ahead and do it. And it doesn't really matter how loony it seems to everyone else. Witness the number who die trying to be the zillionth climber of Everest, or walking to the North Pole, or pole-vaulting across the Grand Canyon. The rest of us shake our heads on the sidelines, but it never deterred anyone.

So why do we write? What is the need we're trying to fulfil when we torture ourselves with rewrites, critiques, rejection letters and bad reviews? If it's for glory or riches, we're setting ourselves up for disappointment. Granted a few do win the jackpot - it's an analogy worth emphasising because you're about as likely to win the lottery than hit Harry Potter levels of riches - but the vast majority never see enough to cover the cost of pens and ink. 

But isn't art its own reward? Someone once said art is the purpose of life, and therefore no one should expect to earn from it. Like the poor sod trying to pogo across the Sahara it's one little contribution to the tapestry of life, a little coloured fleck in the midst of all that rich imagery. It's an achievement, of sorts. It's something out of nothing. And that's always worth the effort.

Happy World Book Day! 

*Is she anybody's?