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Writing Motivation: The Embarrassing Reasons I Write

by Barret Giehl


If you write, you are inevitably asked why. Usually—when asked by concerned loved ones—the unspoken ending is, “instead of something useful.”

When I studied nuclear engineering, I was asked the same, but the unspoken ending then was “instead of a different flavor of STEM” or “instead of some other respectable subject.”

But when the question is asked by another writer, there is no unspoken ending—no unspoken judgement. We just want to know what motivates one another.

A professor once asked one of my classes why we wrote. They wanted us to take our time—sit with the question and be as honest as possible.

Some people wanted to change the world. Some wanted to be the diversity they didn’t see growing up. Some writers had decided to write because they didn’t see the story they wanted or their favorite story didn’t end quite right, and they needed to fix it.

I came up with three reasons:

1. I felt like I had something to say.

2. I thought I was good at it. Most people who know me will know how uncomfortable I am

saying I am good at anything—even more so with something as subjective as writing.

3. When I write, people say nice things to me, and that makes me feel good.

So, it was clear to me: my ego was driving the bus. I studied my list for several minutes deciding whether to be honest when asked, or to try to pass off a platitude as actual contemplation.

Heat rose in my cheeks as I read my list as written. But the embarrassment faded as I accepted that there is no wrong reason to write—no wrong motivation.

Why shouldn’t we do things just because they bring us joy?


Background Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

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