>20 Questions #3

>I got thrown off track by AWP travel and deadlines after that, but now . . . we’re back with Question #3:

Why do you write? And before you say “because I have to,” let me also ask what your writing goals are. It seems to me that the questions are linked? And while I’m bundling questions, where do you see yourself taking your work in five years? Ten?

Email the answers to me or post in a comment below.

Here’s Scott Doyle’s answer:

Good one. I had to sit with that for a couple days.

“I think I write partly by default: feeling like I’ve fallen short or
flailed in other efforts. So I returned to something that earlier gave me
great pleasure. There are times when I know I’ve nailed a story or a moment
or a phrase, and it feels good to get something right.

“I’d also echo Mary in saying I like to write about what confuses me. I’ve
always bristled at the ‘write what you know’ axiom because, although surely
I draw on my experience, in the end I feel I write about what I don’t know.
So there’s the twin experience of getting something right; and at the same
time coming to terms with one’s confusion about the world, one’s bafflement
and wonder.”

Thanks for asking.

About the author


  1. >What I said for yers is that I write to change the history of the world. To prod humanity with dreams and visions of something better if you like, though often enough what I come up with is cautionary nightmare visions. I haven’t abandoned this as an unrealistic goal, but I have to say it’s tougher than it might seem at first, and trying to trace evidence of effect is a bugger.
    I write to understand the world, and myself. A little fame and fortune wouldn’t go amiss either.

  2. >I have never felt myself verbally persuasive. Perhaps that is a confidence issue. My writing has proved to be persuasive over the years, as evidenced my success as a technical editor, then writer, then publications manager in the defense industry. Since turning to fiction, I enter my characters’ minds, feel what they feel, and see the world as they see it. I love to present them to that world, show they have foibles and issues like the rest of us. It’s quite an education when your character is a killer!

  3. >I write to give a voice to those who might otherwise remain voiceless. If my work manages to teach some tolerance, or contribute to righting a couple of wrongs in the process of entertaining my readers, so much the better. I also write about things that confuse me, things that puzzle me about human nature. Writing my way into these troubling things helps me to write my way out to understanding.

  4. >I write because I have been writing for so long I wouldn’t know how not to. However it is only in the past few years that I have written with intent. My intent is to write pieces that people will be extremely happy that they picked it up and read it. How to do that? It has taken me years to even have a clue.

    Writing short fiction has helped me to work on craft and not get caught up in the “beauty of my own language,” a trap most of us fall into.

    I understand that if one wants to have a large audience, it is a good idea to write novels. Novels are what promote conversations between readers, novels have a few best seller list to alert readers, and novels are the stuff of book clubs.

    There are short story writers–Alice Munroe comes to mind–who don’t seem to need a novel, but these brilliant people are few and far between.

    That’s my morning spew!

  5. >At the workday level, I write for different reasons at each stage of a project. In early drafts, I like the free word play, the hope & excitement that something's brewing, and am even in love with the paper, pens, & keyboard. In the middle slough of a project, I don't know why I write because I'm miserable. At the very end, when I'm mine sweeping sentences, my compulsiveness kicks in, an embarrassing pleasure.

    But what's my big-picture reason to write? Why begin a project at all? I'll admit it, I'm a performer who's too scared of the stage. I like an audience to read my stories and laugh or cry or believe the world I've created is "really true." Writing is a way to talk to people, tap them on the shoulder and say, "Listen up!"

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