Frequent commenter Maria sent me an interesting question, which with her permission I have, after some thought, reproduced in its entirety here:
You seem to have a very dynamic work life--a history with Ziff Davis in a pretty nice position, your current company--what was missing that made you write? Obviously it was something you felt you *had* to do. But why? I know you wrote a lot of stuff for Ziff...so is it just about communication, something you are good at? Is it an outlet for something that you miss otherwise? Do you even *know* why it is you have to write? I ask because...I don't know why I write. I know why I started writing. For a while I know why I kept writing. But the last year or so? I keep doing it, but I honestly no longer know why. I'm much more informed about the industry; the pay, the odds, the hours of effort, the ups and downs, etc. I've had some short stories published in e-zines, generally steadily better paying ones and some podcasts...but darned if I know why I keep at it.
Before I answer the question, I want to address something to Maria: Keep writing. You clearly need to do it, so while you're figuring out why, keep doing it. You won't be happy if you don't. Most of us also get better with time, because there's just so much to learn, so you'll probably like the results more and more (to the degree that any of us can like our work).
As to why I write, I'm also honestly not sure. I'll give you my best guesses, but please understand that they are just that: guesses.
I suppose part of it is related to the fact that I've never been able to shut up. My mom tells a story of coming to the first parents night when I was in first grade and seeing the classroom in an odd formation: one desk in the rear left corner facing out the rear window, and all the others in the upper right corner facing front. Yup, the one was mine. The teacher had put me there because I wouldn't stop talking.
Another factor is that I'm a natural storyteller. When I'm traveling, for example, I may forget my camera, but I always remember to collect stories. I love telling stories, and I love listening to them.
When I push on myself to get to the truth, I also encounter this feeling: I have important things to say. How arrogant, eh? I don't mean that they're important in the "oh, look, here's the meaning of life" sense. It's that they're important to me. Sometimes, the world is so much--so much anger, so much joy, so much love, so much of so many things--that I feel as if I don't get some of it out of me I will burst. I rarely write when I feel like that, but I think the times when I am writing are ones in which I'm bleeding off some of that pressure.
I know one reason I write is that I love books, love the written word, and it's just so damn cool to have written.
Finally, one of the reasons I write is that it's one of the best ways I know to get something out of my head and into someone else's. You know how you can look at someone you love and see them, really see them, every wart and blemish and flaw, and yet your heart is so full with love that you wish they for one second could see how you felt? Words are the only way to transmit that feeling across distance. The same is true for a momentary joy in a cool autumn night or the crash of waves, for outrage at an injustice, for the longing for a lover's touch. When I read something I wrote and it is, even if only in that moment, exactly what I felt, exactly what I wanted to convey, then every bit of pain in writing was worth experiencing.
Of course, if I look again a few seconds later, it's all crap, I'm a failure, and all I can do is slog onward in my talentless journey to oblivion, but, hey, that's part of the joy of writing, too!
Yo, Maria, as I asked once before: Aren't you sorry you asked?