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Culture & Religion

Why Do We Write?

It’s a question every writer asks themselves, either in the midst of sorting through overdue bills, during the dead hours of a suffocating block, or upon receipt of another rude rejection:  why do I do this?  Ta-Nehisi Coates, who discussed the subject with Big Think, recently posted about the unhappy vocation and has been leading many bloggers to engage in writerly soul searching.  Is good writing a product of endless practice, God-given talent, or is it something else altogether?

Daniel Strauss suggests that writing does require an inherent trait, but it isn’t talent:  it’s the inability to stop writing. It’s hard to argue that that’s not part of the mix, but as the editorial assistant tasked to read many massive novels of somehting less than quality, there’s  more involved.  Not every hypergraphia sufferer becomes worth reading, even if they get published.

Billy Collins offered Big Think a unique perspective on the question:  writers, and artists in general, are people who retain the unfettered brilliance and creativity of their childhood throughout their lives.  Modern workshops and competitive structures, he claims, do more harm than good.  In fact, he claims, what writers need is less production and more confrontation with the blank page. 

What do you believe are the traits that all successful writers share?