This is a question many people ask authors, and sometimes authors ask themselves the very same question. It is hard to put the answer into words and there are different reasons for each person. What it comes down to for a majority of writers is an incredibly vivid imagination and a passion for words.
Having spent years teaching English to children, I am a grammar and punctuation freak. I often want to take a black felt-tip pen to shop signs and flyers advertising items using really bad grammar. You can probably imagine that I own a copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Well, you’re right – it’s sitting next to Lost in Translation. I also enjoy reading Port Out, Starboard Home: And Other Language Myths. It’s a perfect gift for anyone who loves to know about the idiosyncrasies and origins of words. The author, Michael Quinion, has contributed extensively to the Oxford English Dictionary. He is an English Etymologist who explains the origins of words and phrases. Why are meals square? He published a U.S. version Ballyhoo, Buckaroo and Spuds: Ingenious Tales of Words and Their Origins.
So, back to writing. I often think that writing came out of the blue for me five years ago when I began my first novel, but when I think back to my childhood I remember journals and poetry. I kept diaries and travel journals. I wrote reams of poems and tucked them all way. Then when I studied English A Level I was captivated by the words of an English Professor who taught us about Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost.’ The words jumped off the page and danced – images flittered through my mind and I think it was at that point that I fell in love with language, and with the way that words can be used to create scenes in your imagination.
I think many writers write both because they want to, and because they have to. When you have a story that needs to be written down, it won’t go away. Despite the discipline and determination required to finish, and then to edit your work, and the numerous other factors which draw you away, there is something intangible which keeps you there, writing the story. It’s hard to explain, but for me it is something like the process of colours being applied to a canvas – the artist can see the image before it appears but the colours need to be applied and layered to form texture and an image. It is the same with words, I can see the scene in my mind but the words – dialogue and narrative – have to be applied in layers to form an image that will be imprinted in the mind of another person, the reader.