Other people are doing this
As you’re reading this, someone is writing right now. They may be finishing a novel they’ve worked on for 10 years that is about to blow the world apart. And maybe you’ve never even written a full poem yet!
Maybe you weren’t thinking about this. If you are now, somehow it still doesn’t bother you.
Good! It shouldn’t.
All but one person is a lesser writer than the best writer. They all do it anyway. That’s true for, by our calculations last time, 100 – 0.00004 = 99.99996 % of authors who aren’t George Saunders. (As we go, it’s becoming more absurd, I hope, the notion of there being a “best writer.”)
And that’s in terms of writing quality. If it’s to do with money made as an author, imagine how small a percentage that puts JK Rowling or Stephen King into. It’s very, very likely you will never accrue the wealth or fame that they have. It’s legitimately like winning the lottery.
You don’t act as if you’re going to get struck by lightning seven times every day, so you shouldn’t act as if you will never be happy unless you become that rich or famous. Rowling has more money than any other author has ever had in the history of time!
Something else drives writers.
One of the reasons is of course that they’re all writing different things. There is space for them! But surely even the top writers pray their favourite writers don’t attempt to write about the same subjects as them. (Sometimes.)
There is, however, a more comforting way to explain why you should keep writing.
Authors are inclined to give reasons for their drive, but I think the question is too big for them.
“Questions that are too big” are a thing I’ve thought about a lot recently. Sometimes when I get into discussions/arguments with people, they’ll throw these types of questions at me: “Okay, Leo, well if you believe I should take my feet off the table in polite company, can you explain to me how we know the table even exists? If you can’t, how can you prove I even did what you’ve accused me of in the first place? Gotcha!!”
I believe when a question is clearly too big (or evidently impractical), we’re absolved from having to answer it. We may give our answer on occasion, acknowledging that it may not be anyone else’s answer. But we can may choose to redirect our energies elsewhere, or reduce the scope of the problem that we’ll set about solving.
“Okay, maybe I can set about proving that the table exists later, but in the meantime, I’d appreciate it if, in mixed company, you keep your feet off the object that we, for all intents and purposes assume is there, and which we refer to as a table, while the pope is over for lunch!”
People write and they don’t know why. It’s so much bigger than them that they can’t explain it. All writers do, even in entire lifetimes, is chip off but a fraction of the block of the unknown, or of imagination’s infinite potential. It’s a compulsion, but a healthy one, and doesn’t really need to be questioned.
Something else drives writers, and they don’t even need to worry about what it is. The question—much like the literary world—is just too big for any one person to have much of a grasp upon it.
Stay (blog equivalent of) tuned for a new harsh truth asap!!