But Seriously…Why Do You Write? by Chioma Iwunze
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But Seriously…Why Do You Write? by Chioma Iwunze

As a writer, why do you write?

I have a confession to make. I’m in love with two men. It’s not that I’m promiscuous; my needs have just become more ambiguous. 

I think it comes with widening ones horizons and testing – not men – but different genre and style of writings. And so I have found that two men have charmed me with the profundity of their works. 

Eerily enough, these men are no longer alive in the flesh –but their words live. And they still speak even though they died centuries ago.

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But how can I love very much, quaint and controversial men? Is it because they were thinkers and philosophers, or more because they were outstanding essayists? I may never know.

A brief introduction: the first man is Arthur Schopenhauer and he has been described as being – among other things- ‘a hermit and a boulevardier’.

The second is the father of the ever controversial communism, Karl Marx. Yes, the Karl Marx whose Contribution to the Criticism of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, seemed to describe religion as tawdry. 

For the purpose of this writing, I will focus on Arthur Schopenhauer and the essay – On Authorship and Style – which influenced this writing. 

‘There are, first of all, two kinds of authors: those who write for the subject’s sake, and those who write for writing’s sake. The first kind have had thoughts or experiences which seem to them worth communicating, while the second kind need money and consequently write for money.’

That’s how Arthur Schopenhauer starts his essay. Then he goes on to analyze the difference between these two sets of authors.

It’s indeed interesting the way he has answered the age long question of what should be the basic motivation of every author; especially as we live in a time where everyone who can hold a pen wants to be an author.

Arthur believed that the author should be a deep thinker who writes to influence opinions, so to speak. A writer should be a sort of inventor with original ideas. In other words, the foundation of every writing should be the subject he hopes to discuss (because he has something to impart). In his opinion, every writer is a cheat who writes for the sake of ‘filling up paper’ and making money. 

Again Arthur says, quite unapologetically, that ‘Writing for money and preservation of copyright are, at bottom, the ruin of literature.’

He explains that monetary rewards vulgarize the art of literature. And he further asserts that people write their best when they expect little or nothing from it. He backs it up with the old Spanish sage which says that money and honour do not reside n the same purse.

There’s probably an inkling of truth here, but not practicable truth, considering that we now live in a material world. But has this materialism not discouraged professionalism, and thus a proliferation of insipid works?

Again the question of the relevance of the title comes up. Arthur Schopenhauer asserts that an address is to a letter what a title is to a book (or writing).

The objects which make up the book should reflect the theme (and perhaps, the title) of the literature. The title should be catchy yet lucid enough to attract people who might be interested in the writing.

It is common knowledge that philosophers – and great thinkers – are usually quite controversial in their opinions and reasoning. They have proved to be non-conformists who view the world differently.

Their minds are queer yet amazing. And I must mention here that I’ve only had time to study the works of German philosophers like the two aforementioned essayists. 

Nevertheless, Arthur Schopenhauer’s opinion about authorship and how the intentions for writing reflect in the quality of a writer’s works is quite illuminating. Most times, people write without really thinking about what they want to say. And they disguise their inaudibility in complicated phrases.

And while some writers think as they write, others think deeply before they write. The former comes out with shallow and trite work while the later emerges with much better quality of informative yet interesting literature.

Obviously, writing is not an easy career path to follow. It is, for the most part, a service to humanity much like martyrdom. 

Most times, one is tempted to ask oneself the difficult question, ‘why do I write?’ Most writers end up in a life of penury. Is it worth it, all the hard work and little or no recognition/rewards?

Reflection is required here. Ask yourself: Why, really, do you write?

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