As authors, most of us have been asked the questions of “Why did you decided to write a book?” and “Why do you like writing?” Some of us have even asked these questions to ourselves. When I was younger, I have indeed thought much about the answers to these questions, even before they were presented to me. However, there was one moment, one experience in my life that has helped me to realize my purpose for writing that became even clearer when I wrote and completed my first book, Kingdom of the Sun.
In the 2011 film “Anonymous,” Edward de Vere is a playwright and the Earl of Oxford who finds his calling in writing poetry and plays. Due to the dishonor and shame attached with writing, he prevents his name from being associated with his works. The Earl’s plays become so loved and so popular that the audience one day demands to know the name of the author, and that is when a man named William Shakespeare falsely claims them.
There is a scene in the movie when Edward is confronted by his angry wife who asks him “Why must you write? Why must you continue to humiliate my family?” With great passion, Edward tried to explain to his disgruntled wife how moved the audience was by his works and how the voices in his head will not leave him and give him peace until they are written down. She then responded, “Are you possessed?”
This part of the movie ranks as one of my favorites because the smile on my face and the chills that ran through me signified something I understood and knew as truth on many levels. The first was how I understood Edward and felt angry with his wife for scolding him for his passion. This was not only because of the love and passion that I myself have for writing but also because I had been asked similar questions before: “You want to write?” “How can you make money on writing?” How fascinating it is for us to compare the stigma of being a writer in the Elizabethan period to now. And although much has changed, it is still striking to see the similarities.
At the time that I watched this film on DVD, I had just begun writing Kingdom of the Sun. I was at a point where the voices of my characters were not as clear as they used to be, and I had a bit of writer’s block. Watching Anonymous allowed me to realize that I was not alone in my passion and “insanity.” You see, watching this movie let me know that a good writer allows themselves to be “possessed” by their characters and that it was okay to not force myself to hear the voices again. And sure enough, it was not long after watching Anonymous that the voices came back to me, and I was once again happily and passionately “possessed.” Edward’s response to the question of “Why must you write?” seemingly was about the submission to the voices in his head but, oh, it was so much deeper. I believe the true answer is about fulfillment. Although, Edward received no recognition for his work, he was extremely moved and fulfilled by the reaction of the audience to his plays. And so, the answer to the question is not so much about simply submitting to the voices of our characters, but about fulfillment and purpose. Edward wrote to inspire, and he wrote to ignite lights of political change that became flames which fueled his passion and purpose even more when he saw their effect.
Why must you write? What fulfills you in your writing? What is the purpose and goal of your works? If your book touched only one person, would you be fulfilled even if you received no recognition or financial gain? When I wrote Kingdom of the Sun my goal and purpose was and still is to give my readers hope, honor, and happiness through the book’s characters and themes. I want them to feel hopeful in situations that are hopeless. I want them to see the honor in themselves and others. I want them to discover, and perhaps rediscover, the joy and happiness in life and what true enlightenment and knowledge can give. And at the same time that my readers would gain this from my work, the same would happen for me. When I am able to see the hope, honor, and happiness that my book has given, I receive it myself. I feel hopeful that my words have indeed changed and inspired someone and honored that someone has actually taken the time to read them. Most of all, I gain the happiness of sharing my words and ideas with another person and influencing them in a positive way.
When discussing Kingdom of the Sun’s future, people often base its success on the royalties I receive. I was once asked about what I wanted to accomplish with my work. I said I wanted to sell a million copies and beyond. That is not because of the money but because of the millions of lives that I have a chance of reaching and inspiring with my words. I think many authors would agree that this is true success and fulfillment.
I cannot see any other purpose in my writing than for the readers to take what I am trying to give them and use it to make a change in themselves and the world. I want to be able to describe the effects of my work with passion and excitement as Edward did when he described the same emotions that his plays aroused. I want to feel the accomplishment and fulfillment he experienced when knowing that the purpose of his works had been achieved. I want the same for myself because I believe that I am only as great as the impact that my words and life have on others. And so, I ask you: “Why must you write?” I do not mean, “Why do you write?” but “Why must you write? What is it that propels you, possesses you, and calls you to the written word?”
Source: Anonmyous. Dir. Ronald Emmerich. Perf. Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Sebastian Armesto, Rafe Spall, David Thewlis, and Edward Hogg. Anonymous Pictures, 2011. Film.
Peace and Love,