Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why I Write...(and a literary contest to boot) by Leslie Langtry

Before I started really writing for publication, I heard other writers who were, um, more dramatic about the whole thing.  I am not kidding, I have actually been told the following:

"I don't write.  I sit at the typewriter and open a vein."

"I write because I have to...the need to write is like the need to eat or breathe."

"Words make me write them.  They torment me to do so."

"To forge in the smithy of my soul, the uncreated consciousness of my race."

Okay, so why does Leslie Langtry write?  (Perhaps the most important question here is why am I referring to myself in third person?)

I write...(insert drumroll)...because 1) I like to and 2) I get paid to.

Not very lyrical, is it?  These are the reasons I write.  I get comments on facebook, my website, etc. from those who want to be published, saying the above, poetic stuff.  But what does it really mean? And who exactly are they trying to impress?  Well, clearly they are meant to imply clinical insanity (I'd vote for schizophrenia), right?

Gone are the days when writers like Voltaire had "sponsors" who supported them so they could lie about in a French salon eating bonbons and drinking champagne.  Sigh.  But today, it's a business.

A lot of newbies are offended when I tell them, "I would write whatever my publisher wanted.  If my publisher wanted me to write in a storefront window downtown wearing a chicken suit - I would do it."  That may sound like selling out, but it isn't.  Writing is a business.  I love writing anything and getting paid for it is just as important.  You should see my grocery lists...

Is writing an art form?  Yes.  Is it a marketable skill?  Yes.  Would I really wear a chicken suit in a downtown storefront?  Yes.

Speaking of art forms - just for fun, one of the above quotes is from an actual, famous writer. If you can tell me which one and who said it, (don't look it up!) I'll put your name in for a drawing for my latest book - I SHOT YOU BABE and a special surprise.

Why do you write?



  1. "To forge in the smithy of my soul, the uncreated consciousness of my race."

    James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"
    (it's on my list of books to read on my nook when B&N starts offering free classics again)


  2. I'm pretty sure Ernest Hemingway said something like, "It's easy to write, all you have to do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed", but I don't know if he said the vein thing.

    I really enjoyed your post. It was delightfully honest!

  3. You guys are good! I forgot about the Hemingway quote! Love Papa Hemingway!

  4. Leslie, you're too funny!

    I write because I love doing it. I love reading stories and I love making them up. The fact that I get paid to do it, is a big fat cherry on top ;)

  5. I thought the vein one was Hemingway. Pat Conroy said something like that too. But that whole "smithy of my soul" thing? No clue.

    I write because . . . I like to work in my jammies? I like to control people way too much and my own family kinda rebels?

    Great post, Leslie!

  6. Those quotes are awesome. If anyone ever said anything like that to me, I'd just laugh.

    I write because I love telling stories. And Judy, I have to agree with you: clearly I have control issues. :)

  7. I thought the open a vein line was Truman Capote's.

  8. I tackled this myself on my blog. I love how we all write for different reasons but are united in the fact that we simply love to do it. :-) if you are interested to see why I write, you can visit me here:

  9. I write because I have no other skills:)
    LOVE the photo!

  10. I'll check it out Rachel! Isn't writing fun? I mean, you can kill people and not go to jail!

  11. That picture is awesome, but one of you in a chicken suit would be even better. With the rose in the beak, of course.

    I write because it's fun and because I can make money doing it. I'm not insane, I'm keeping the day job, but a little ancillary income would be nice.

    Those quotes sound they're from method actors instead of writers. So maybe method writers?

  12. You know, I always wanted a chicken suit. I may have to look into getting one...

  13. I started writing when I realized that my notes to the teacher were hilarious and full of made up stories and I thought, hmmm, is there a career in this?

    Loved the post Leslie... and of course you are right. Books are a business. We write for ourselves but we publish for others.

    Continued good luck.

  14. I pretty much write because it's one of the only things I'm good at (so my career options are limited). I work as a professional greeting card writer and editor, and, yeah, sometimes it seems like selling out, but I also feel incredibly lucky that I get to make my living from the written word because a lot of people would love to have a day job like mine :)

    As far as books or essays... I write them because they're fun or I think I can write something good. It would be a lot easier not to write and just sit around all day :)

  15. A chicken suit! I'd do it.
    I write for the fun, money, challenge, and 24-hour psychotherapy. You have to be a little nuts (right?) but quickly find out how to use the neurosis to your advantage.

  16. Lisa - What a great job! And I do wonder what it would be like to just sit and watch sitcoms all night. To just "clock out."

    Rochelle - you definitely have to be nuts!

  17. Someone beat me to it, but... James Joyce! Funnily enough I studied Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man for my MFA. I always thought he was over dramatic though.

  18. Love this... once at a booksigning a hipster asked me if I felt like I'd "sold out" because I wrote a commercial novel. I felt like answering, "It must be a luxury to get to sit in a cafe, smoking clove cigarettes and waiting for the muse to wander over and join you - but I've got deadlines and three kids who occasionally like to eat!"Writing doesn't have to be torture - and I'm with you on the chicken suit!