So…Why Do You Write?

If you want to be a successful writer, knowing the why behind your words is as important, perhaps even more important, than the what. Without a clearly defined goal, your writing will lose focus, and will thus lose your reader. I’ve heard it said every business and ministry needs a mission statement, otherwise they risk becoming too broad and thus, ineffective. I believe the same is true of writing. The why hones your message, spurs your commitment, and helps prevent wasting hours on indecision.

Today, Mary Hamilton shares how her “why” impacts her “what.” Come back Friday as she answers the next logical question: Why she continues to write despite obstacles, time constraints, and frustration. On Saturday, we’ll wrap up with an article I posted on FaithWriters some time back that poses a thought-provoking question–are you stuck in Haran? Although you’ll need to read the post to understand, but I use Haran as an analogy of stopping at the halfway point. You left your homeland (comfort zone) to follow your dreams, but then things got rough….

 Why I Write by Mary Hamilton

In a keynote address at the ACFW convention in September, author Tracie Peterson challenged us to define why we write. Is it only to be published? For personal recognition? For money? She asked, If you knew you would never, ever have anything published, would you still write?

I confess that I do write for publication. I look forward to the emotional high of seeing my name in a printed byline. And yes, I write for personal recognition, too. Does anyone not feel a jump in their self-esteem when a reader recognizes their name from an article or a book? Do I write for money? Not so much, although it does symbolize a validation of my writing ability.

But if I knew I’d never, ever be published, would I continue to write? The question brought to mind my son’s struggle with playing basketball for a team destined to lose every game. He wanted to quit the team before playing a single game, but we challenged him with the example of his hero, Michael Jordan. A quote from one of Michael’s books provided the inspiration, and motivation, for my son to stay on the team. In effect, Tracie asked us the same question that Michael Jordan asked: Do you love winning? Or do you love the game?

Do I love being published? Or do I simply love writing? Because if I simply love writing, I’ll do it no matter what agents or editors think. I’ll write whether I get a sizable advance or I get paid nothing. Writing simply for the love of writing frees us from so many pressures that we put on ourselves.  It frees us to write what God lays on our hearts, not what we think will sell. It frees us to be obedient to the One who calls us to write, the giver of the gift.

Why do I write? Because I think better when I write. I speak better on paper than out loud. I write because I get a kick out of seeing characters come to life on the page, like having a whole community of invisible friends. And I love those moments when something I added to the text earlier suddenly appears later with a meaning that I never planned and never saw coming. I write because it seems God has put it in my heart to write certain stories. Even if they never get published. Even if they never earn a penny.

I write because, like Michael, I love the game.


A homemaker for almost 30 years, Mary L. Hamilton has been publishes in several Christian periodicals. She also wrote “Homespun Angel,” a Christmas play, and is currently working on a middle grade contemporary novel. In her spare time, she enjoys knitting, reading, and exercising. (Well, maybe not exercising.)

Mary lives in the Houston, TX area with her husband, three nearly-grown kids, and a dog. You can find her on:



Drop by and say hello!


About Jennifer Slattery

Novelist and speaker Jennifer Slattery, also writing as Jen Pheobus, uses humor, grace, and truth to inspire God's children to live abundant, Christ-centered lives. She does content editing for Firefly, a southern fiction imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, and is a regular contributor to; Internet Cafe Devotions; Faith, Friends and Chocolate; and manages the social media for Takin’ it to the Streets, a ministry that serves Omaha’s working poor and homeless. She’s placed in numerous writing contests and her work has appeared in numerous compilations, magazines, and e-zines.

Posted on October 26, 2011, in Blogging, community, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I love this question, and I write because I love the game of writing. Would I love to make money at it? Sure, I would love it to be my full time job but not at the risk of writing crap just to get paid. I write because I love to write, I love to inspire, and I love to be creative. Oh, and it is pretty cool to see your name as the byline. I believe God has put this on my heart and now I need to find the places he wants it spread.
    Author of The Cancer Prayer Book

  2. What a great question. It IS wonderful to be published and to know that readers want to read what you’ve written, and it IS validating to be paid for work. But I have to say that if I’d never been published or didn’t have the hope of being published again I would still need and want to write. It’s how God wired me. It’s like a two-part harmony between us–a song that must be sung or a prayer that must be prayed. It’s those things shut up in my bones that cannot stay–absolute work, and absolute joy–ways in which I worship Him. The beauty of writing what God lays on our hearts is that we can then share those gifts with one another. I’m constantly inspired by the writings of others, so thankful that they heeded the Spirit and overflowed with the joy of their God-given gifts, spilling them out to bless the rest of us.

    • That’s beautiful, Cathy! And having a clear focus keeps you centered and effective, I’m sure. Yes, we need to know our audience and the market, but the market constantly changes. As a christian, I firmly believe if I follow whole-heartedly after God and stay fully obedient, He’ll teach me what I need to know when i need to know it and He’ll open and close whatever door are necessary to fulfill His plans for me. (Eph 2:10, jer 29:11.)

  1. Pingback: What Keeps You Going When You Hit the Wall? « Words That Keep

  2. Pingback: Keep Moving Forward! « Words That Keep

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: