We often talk about how reading is subjective. Just because we like X story doesn’t mean others will like it too or vice versa. We can probably all think of a bestseller that left us wondering why people liked it.
But we don’t usually talk about how writing is subjective as well. The genres I enjoy writing and the stories I like to tell aren’t the same that others enjoy or like to write.
I’m sure some would hear about how I write paranormal romance and think (to paraphrase The Princess Bride) “Eww, a kissing book.” *smile* In reverse, I can’t imagine writing a story without an exploration of love and relationships (in other words, at least a “love interest” character).
That’s a good thing. We need diversity in our writing preferences so there are sufficient books to appeal to the diversity of reader preferences. If everyone wrote the same genre, readers looking for something new and different would be left out.
However, this idea did get me wondering about the various reasons we write the stories we write. Or to put it another way, why do we write about the ideas, themes, worldviews, etc. we do?
I came up with a couple of different ways our experiences can influence us, but maybe you’ll be able to add to this list…
Focus #1: When We Start to Write
If we’ve had family, friends, or teachers encouraging us, maybe we started down the writing path earlier in life than we would have otherwise. On the other hand, if we’ve had others discouraging us, maybe we delayed our entrance to the writing world—or we might have been contrary and written anyway. *smile*
The when of the question for when we start to write might influence us in other ways as well. It can take years to learn the “rules” of writing, so a later start can delay our learning curve. Also, we might write the stories that interest us now and not the stories that would have interested us ten years ago.
I’ve mentioned before that discouragement in high school from those who didn’t understand that fiction means making things up (and didn’t necessarily indicate “a cry for help”) kept me from writing for far too many years. But encouragement later came in the form of Harry Potter, as the stories’ magic inspired me to take writing up again.
However, in the time that I wasn’t writing, I’d worked through my sci-fi reading phase and moved on to other genres. If I’d continued writing when I was younger, there’s a good chance I would be more interested in writing within the science fiction genre than I am currently.
Influencers for When We Start to Write Might Include:
- Experiences with family, friends, teachers, etc.
- Inspiring books or authors
- Personality traits (perfectionism vs. experimentation, self-doubt vs. contrariness, etc.)
- Knowledge of writing “rules” (do we feel “capable” of writing?)
Focus #2: What We Write
Our experiences will likely influence what we write in many ways. We might write in our favorite genre to read. Or we might write within trends with a goal of income because of our budget situation.
We might write in a genre that complements our worldview. Or we might write stories in a genre that doesn’t seem to match the themes we like to explore—because we want to bring a different viewpoint to the category.
My experiences and worldview (i.e., my “Pollyanna” nature) match the Happily Ever After of romance stories. Even my various story ideas for non-romance stories still focus on the question of what it means to be happy.
Back when I was in a far worse place than I am now, several experiences led me to question how to be happy. It took me several years to discover how much the maxim of choosing to be happy holds true for me. Because of that history, my stories often explore the importance of choices, whether that means free will vs. fate, the gray area between good and evil, or the potential for redemption.
Influencers for What We Write Might Include:
- Our favorite genres or authors (especially at the time of starting to write)
- Willingness to break writing “rules”
- Genre trends (especially if our strategy includes writing to the market)
- Experiences that form our worldview and themes we want to explore
Focus #3: Why We Write
We can also look at the question of why we write at all. We might write stories that explore tragedies of our life as a form of therapy. Or we might write stories that we wish existed for us but don’t yet.
We might write stories with characters we’d like to call friends. Or we might write stories that essentially “teach” our worldview to others.
My initial reason for writing and pursuing publication was that my characters demanded that I tell their story, and if I was going to have to write it down anyway, I may as well share what they have to say. Over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate the power of words, so my reasons now include wanting to bring happiness and enjoyment to others.
On some level, those reasons don’t feel like enough, as though I should have a grand vision for my work. But nah, happiness—for me and my readers—is grand enough. *smile*
Influencers for Why We Write Might Include:
- Need for income or validation
- Desire to share our stories with others
- Pushing the boundaries for genres or diversity assumptions
- Making sense of our lives and experiences
Because I didn’t write for so long, my decision to pursue writing is recent enough that I can point to specific experiences that led to this point. I know the exact circumstances that led me start writing again. I remember the conversation that made me question the nature of happiness. And every day, I’m reminded of the stories still in my head that demand to be written. *smile*
But maybe I’m unusual. Some writers knew from a young age that they would be authors when they grew up, so maybe they don’t have specific memories for the when. Some writers might be comfortable reading only one genre, so maybe there was never any question for the what. Some writers might never question the why and just follow their gut.
Let’s find out. Share your writing influences in the comments!
What influenced you to start writing? How did you decide what to write? What influenced that choice? Why do you write? Are your reasons internal, external, or a bit of both? Are there other focus areas of your writing that have been influenced by your experiences? How so?Pin It