Why We Write

The great journalist, satirist and cultural critic, H.L. Mencken, (September 12, 1880 – January 29, 1956) wrote:

“Why then do rational men and women engage in so barbarous and exhausting a vocation (writing) – for there are relatively intelligent and enlightened authors, remember, just as there are relatively honest politicians, and even bishops.  What keeps them from deserting it for trades that are less onerous, and, in the eyes of their fellow creatures, more respectable? One reason, I believe, is that an author, like any other so-called artist, is a man in whom the normal vanity of all men is so vastly exaggerated that he finds it a sheer impossibility to hold it in. His overpowering impulse is to gyrate before his mellow men, flapping his wings and emitting defiant yells. This being forbidden by the police of all civilized countries, he takes it out by putting his yells on paper.  Such is the thing called self-expression.” from the book – A Mencken Chrestomathy



Some writers “yell” with gentle whispers, beckoning the reader to pause a moment, and come hither…for I have something important to tell you.

Some writers attempt to quell the the need to yell by means of humor, sarcasm and wit, via the written word.

Some writers, being blessed with the highest of IQ’s, yell with intelligent verbosity, hoping the reader will acquiesce to their demands to be read because, after all, they are the brightest among the bright (and not so bright).

Some writers, simply want to “yell” in a more factual and historical context, inviting the reader to come and listen, for I have wondrous things to tell you of, and in the process, I want to set the record straight, or at least add (or detract) to the subject matter at hand.

And then some writers chose to yell by going down fictional paths of story telling; creating characters, most being composites of themselves, relatives, friends, loved ones, acquaintances, co-workers, or even the derelict they encountered on a night out on the town – weaving tales of love, fear, heartache, betrayal, joy and every other emotion they’ve encountered and if not encountered, ones they imagine – hoping to invite the reader to consider, at the very least, another life that though fictional, is still very real.

We each have our reasons to write, some a combination of those noted above and many more. But in the end, I think Mr. Mencken may have nailed it, we write to keep from flapping our wings and emitting defiant yells. What is in each of us must be “outed”. We cannot hold it in and so we choose maybe a more civilized and cultured form of expression than that of flapping our wings – exploring the question that bewitches many of us all our lives…that one word question…why?


The Typewriter (A Concerto for Orchestra and Solo Typewriter) – Leroy Anderson 






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