I’ve Always Wanted To Be A Writer (but I’ve never written anything)

Why do people want to be writers, when they’ve never written anything?

A friend attended a writing workshop at the local library recently . The room was packed. The speaker asked, “Who here is writing?” Six or eight hands went up. “Who here has never written?”  A hundred hands went up.

It’s said that eighty percent of all adults want to be writers, which is sort of  surprising. You never hear people say, “I’ve always wanted to be an accountant” or “I’ve always wanted to trade bonds”  (unless that’s what they’re currently doing.)

I run a writing group, and I noticed this same pattern. Most people who apply to the group  have never written anything.

“I want to begin a book… possibly.”

“I have a great story idea and I’m seeking a co-author to write it.”

“My goal is to just start writing.”

“I want to finish the book I’ve barely started.”

“I would like to start a blog and eventually write a novel.”

“I want to create concrete plots and characters, and actually put ideas on paper.”

“I need to stop procrastinating and start writing something.”

I’m not unsympathetic, but why would someone want to be a writer if they don’t write? I wouldn’t want to be a computer programmer if I didn’t code, and you never hear people saying, “I’ve always wanted to be an accountant” or “I’ve always wanted to trade bonds” (unless that’s what they’re already doing.)

I expect it’s not about money. While aspiring authors will say, “I want to write a bestseller and make a million dollars”, writing is one of the worst paid professions out there. In the words of a seller on the eBay message boards, “I’m making less than minimum wage. If I wanted to make real money, I’d go to Honduras and pick fruit.”

My daughter Rachel nailed it – The desire to write is about immortality. It’s not about the million dollars, it’s about writing a bestseller and having other people care about what you had to say.

There are few ways to live on after we’re gone, other than by having children. Our best shot at immortality through things we make lies in the creative professions: artist, photographer, writer, poet, inventor, scientist.

Writing is different from inventions  or scientific discoveries  or photography in that much of the writer’s thoughts and personality becomes a part of writing. Even art, which is highly personal, doesn’t capture the artist’s thoughts to the same degree that writing does.

Whether we’re writers or not, we want to write because it can make us immortal.

Author: Liz Hayes

Liz Hayes is the author of "How To Write Faster". She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and children, where she works as an analyst for a think tank inside the capital beltway. She is fascinated by medieval reenactment and writes fanfiction under the penname Uvatha the Horseman.