Why do I write?

Personal motivations are not always easy to explain.

We were at a barbecue on Sunday afternoon when, unprompted and completely independent of one another, two friends (R & A) went out of their way to compliment me on my other, sports-related blog. A even went so far as to ask if I had ever considered trying to get myself published.

A little well-meaning flattery never did anyone any harm, and I went home that evening with my chest metaphorically puffed out, grateful for the fact that two busy, well-educated and highly literate friends (R works in the City; A is a doctor-in-training) not only took a few minutes of their time to read my occasionally coherent ramblings, but thought enough of them to spontaneously praise them.

When asked why I choose to write, my typically inarticulate response was to shrug and say, “I just like to write, that’s all.”

Equally pertinent was the follow-up question: where do I find the time? After all, with a young toddler who is somewhat high maintenance when it comes to (not) sleeping, a reasonably busy job, and a constant lack of time which is a source of permanent frustration and complaint, it’s a question I often ask myself.

I suppose the simple (and obvious) answer is that it is something I am motivated enough to do that I prioritise it over other activities: I watch less TV than I used to; I spend less time conquering virtual worlds on the Playstation; I read less. (I also spend less time doing household chores than I ought to, as Heather is constantly reminding me, but then who doesn’t?)

And the fact is that writing a blog post takes less time than many people imagine, particularly when it is something that comes from either the heart or a deep interest rather than a sense of obligation. (That’s my excuse for why it takes me so long to produce stuff at work, anyway!)

On average, I will post once a week to each of my two blogs; sometimes more, often less. A typical post will be between 800 and 1,000 words and take on average 45 minutes to write, rarely more than an hour (unless the topic requires some heavy research). That’s a similar length to your average newspaper article, which I daresay journalists rattle off more quickly than I do and with the added pressure of print deadlines to meet.

(As an example, I’ll do a word count and time-check at the end of this blog.)

So, in reality, I spend a couple of hours – the duration of a football match – blogging in an average week. Not so much, really.

I’ve found that the simple act of putting finger to keyboard on a regular basis keeps the writing ’muscle’ well-practised and in good nick. I’m still not someone who can bash out a piece from start to finish in one seamless motion – I’d be rubbish if I had to write on a typewriter – but I’ve definitely learned how to crank out readable output more quickly than when I first started blogging. My style is somewhat, er, ‘organic’ (for which, read ‘chaotic and disorganised’): my modus operandi is that the absolute maximum I will start with is a theme, a couple of key discussion points, and a picture of what I want the final paragraph to be, but other than that I allow the structure and flow to evolve on its own. Start with an idea and the words will follow would be my motto. I know it’s not how all the manuals advise aspiring writers to approach their art, but it works for me. With experience, I’ve learned to trust my own voice and ability, and just enjoy the process of watching a blank page fill with a narrative which gives me a huge sense of satisfaction when I finally hit the ‘publish’ button.

And that in itself is perhaps the best way I can answer the question of my personal motivation for writing. Some people write to share or show off their expertise on a particular topic as a way of enhancing their reputation; others chase ‘hits’ on a blog or website as a means of validating some kind of personal currency. I do it because I find it is a good way to blow off steam, because it is a way for me to express myself creatively, and because I find it personally satisfying. Everything else – readers, comments, praise – is a nice bonus, but it is not a primary motivation. Many people write for others; I write for me.

So there you have it. I just like to write, that’s all.

(Word count: 790. Time: 41 minutes. See, it doesn’t take that long, really.)