The Missing Muse: Why We Write
Why do we write?
What drives us to create people, places, cities, entire worlds, and entire universes out of nothing? What compels writers to sit down every day, stare at a blank piece of paper tucked into a typewriter or a white screen within a word processing window and decide to fill that void with something only they could envision as their own?
This brings us to our titular question: Why do we write?
The question is so large, so nebulous, and yet so simple. The answer can be straightforward and yet contradictory in its very nature. Nothing has to make sense when you're the one creating the world that you want to share. With your work, you are a god - or you can be a fly on the wall.
We write to explore the future.
I love science fiction because of it's connection with our world while taking our understanding of technology and extrapolating its myriad possibilities. And within the science fiction genre are numerous depictions of the future, such as the one where humanity finally leaves the cradle that is Earth and begins expanding into the final frontier. The greatest frontier that will ever exist is all around us - its exploration begins with our pens and keyboards.
We write to explore our failures.
It is as alluring to contemplate the collapse of our civilization - the ultimate failure of us, as a people, a sentient species capable of complex thought and innovation. What happens after we wipe ourselves out using weapons we should have never created in the first place? Will a future species rise up, see the husks of our artificial creations that litter the world, and realize our loss of control to their benefit? Will we look around at cities turned to ashes and ask, "Why?"
We write because we persevere.
Every day is a battle - not with swords or firearms, but with our own minds. Looking at the wall of text that we created over the course of many hours and think to ourselves in the end with a frown, "This is utter shit." The words don't always come easy, and when you approach a brick wall that is tall enough to blot out the sunlight that fuels your fire, you can't help but ask yourself if it is worth it. You are one person trying to craft the lives of many while dealing with the struggles that you work through every day when you're not helping your imaginary friends.
But we write. And we write. And we write some more. We write through the tears and the pain until our baby is born.
We write because we want to go home.
As much as science fiction takes you to the edges of the galaxy, in the end we're only trying to find ourselves. To find understanding in the enigma that we call human nature. Maybe we don't go too far from where we started - after all, your favorite grocery store, owned by the heavy-set man with a perpetual smile on his face, still sells your favorite breakfast meal, wrapped in Saran. The elementary school you set foot in every day for years is surrounded by skyscrapers, yet you still hear your laughter when playing on the jungle gym on the roof of the school. The park that you buried your classroom pet was ripped away for seven sub-levels of foundation and parking lots, yet you still remember your emotions when that poor frog was buried in a shoebox coffin.
Look down at the sidewalk and see the ancient bubble gum flattened against its surface - you'll find a gem.
We write because we are visionaries.
Science fiction allows us the freedom to think outside of the box and conceive future worlds where we've solved the many problems that plague us today. There are so many technological advances that we have today which have yet to be applied today for reasons that, to an alien civilization, are archaic and nonsensical. Despite the politics and backroom maneuvering that exists in the real-world, our works allow us to bypass what is holding humanity from its greatest potential. We can see worlds where we've solved world hunger and poverty. We can envision entire star federations that are united under a single flag and FTL travel and communications. We see the best that humanity can offer us and others and see the beautiful light that awaits us at the end of the tunnel that we're currently enshrouded.
We have faith in ourselves.
We write because we want to be remembered.
Until we find a way to reverse its flow - or usurp it - time inextricably moves forward and we are along for the ride. We know that no matter what we do, death will come - it always does. What can be done to prevent a force as powerful and immortal as the end?
We ensure that our visions, from the apocalyptic to the Utopian, are shared with as many people as possible. We write so that a part of ourselves is imprinted in the minds of our readers. Maybe we make a middle-aged person nod their heads in agreement with our character's climatic speech. Maybe a teenager found solace in one of our creations during a time of great anxiety or stress.
Or maybe our beaten-up hardcover book finds its way into the carry-on bag of a family departing the Earth - the first of many - to the first human colony on a faraway planet.
Don't shed any tears for us - we've already left our mark.