Why Write

vikram-sethI spent many years of my life as an economist and demographer. I was finally distracted by writing my novels and poetry. I’m enormously happy that was the case. I feel that with writing I have found my metier.

— Vikram Seth





In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions — with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating — but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.

— Joan Didion


mary-karrI write to dream; to connect with other human beings; to record; to clarify; to visit the dead. I have a kind of primitive need to leave a mark on the world. Also, I have a need for money.

Mary Karr




Salman Rushdie

I can’t go on, says Beckett’s Unnamable. I will go on. A writer’s injuries are his strengths, and from his wounds will flow his sweetest, most startling dreams.
— Salman Rushdie in February 1999: Ten Years of the Fatwa

VS Naipaul

And Proust, too, killing himself to write his book comes close to the concept of dharma when, echoing Balzac, he says that in the end it’s less the desire for fame than ‘the habit of laboriousness’ that takes a writer to the end of a work. But dharma, as this ideal of truth to oneself, or living out the truth in oneself, can also be used to reconcile men to servitude and make them find in paralyzing obedience the highest spiritual good. ‘And do thy duty, even if it be humble,’ says the Aryan Gita, ‘rather than another’s, even it be great. To die on one’s duty is life: to live in another’ death.
— V.S. Naipaul in India: A Wounded Civilisation

A.K. Ramanujan

My discovery over the years is that the mother tongues have so much in them, so much that is alive, and are much more pervasive, in all strata of society, in all ages from children to the very old, men and women, literate and non-literate. What holds them together? It’s not Sanskrit. It’s these mother tongues. I think I went into linguistics because of that. That spoken languages had to be very, very important. It was important in my youth to have discovered this.
— A.K. Ramanujan in an interview

Don DeLillo

Writing is a concentrated form of thinking. I don’t know what I think about certain subjects, even today, until I sit down and try to write about them. Maybe I wanted to find more rigorous ways of thinking. We are talking now about the earliest writing I did and about the power of language to counteract the wallow of late adolescence, to define things, define muddled expression in economical ways. Let’s not forget that writing is convenient. It requires the simplest tools. A young writer sees that with words and sentences on a piece of paper that costs less than a penny he can place himself more clearly in the world. Words on a page, that’s all it takes to help him separate himself from the forces around him, streets and people and pressures and feelings. He learns to think about these things, to ride his own sentences into new perceptions.
— Don DeLillo

William FaulknerAlways dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. An artist is a creature driven by daemons. He doesn’t know why they chose him and he is usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done.
— William Faulkner

Osip MandelstamI am trembling with cold
I want to feel nothing!
But the sky dances with gold. It orders me to sing.
— Osip Mandelstam


Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living.


Gustav Flaubert