On days when words flow freely onto the blank page or, like a magician, I can transform sentences I’ve already written into better ones, it’s easy to know why I write. I enjoy it, I feel I might be good at it; it seems entirely possible for me to turn the story in my head into something worth sharing with others. But mostly I agree with the novelist Esther Freud:
‘Sitting down at your desk every day is an appointment with doubt; that is the nature of writing.’
This doubt can be compounded by something else writers have to deal with all the time: rejection. First by agents, then publishers, and if by some miracle you manage to pass through these locked gates, waiting behind them will be critics who reject you, or readers, either by not buying your book at all, or by not liking it if they do.
So I often ask myself why I write, what keeps pulling me back to it, and I think Rebecca F John, who was shortlisted for this year’s Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, has the answer:
‘…that’s all we want – isn’t it? – as writers: to find an audience; to have somebody listen to what we felt we had to say.’
But perhaps that isn’t quite all we want. Perhaps we’d really like them to think it had been worth listening as well.