Why We Write edited by Meridith Maran

Why We Write, edited by Meredith Maran is a book of 20 interviews with well known authors.

I found the chapters by authors whose works I have read (Jodi Picoult, Isabel Allende, Armistead Maupin and Terry McMillan) more interesting than those I had not, as I felt I already had a personal connection with them (although I recognise these are one-way relationships. I often feel as if I know an author after reading their books, all though of course I don’t).

Several constants came up again and again in each interview. The first was that all of the writers interviewed were compelled to write. Nearly all said they would write even if they could not make any money from writing (and quite a few do not make a living from their writing and have to work, usually teaching). One writer, David Baldacci, said he would write, even if it were illegal. I expect the other interviewees would agree.

Each writer also stressed the importance of sitting down and writing. No messing around waiting for inspiration to strike, no getting sidetracked by the internet or housework or whatever else is going on in the household. They all emphasized that in order to write, you actually have to sit down and write. It sounds obvious, but having the persistence to actually write is one of those things that is easier said than done.

The crafting was the third point that most of the interviewed writers talked about. They agreed on the importance of the actual words selected, the order of each word and how they sound. They all valued revising their work and, although they did not like doing so, were prepared to discard work (previously written words).

After reading Why We Write I’ve found a few authors whose books I’ll look out for. I’m looking forward to reading A Visit from the Goon Squad, which won the Pulitzer prize, by Jennifer Egan in particular. Also A Million Little Pieces by James Frey and Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. Happy days ahead for me, with new authors to look forward to reading.