If you write solely for self indulgence, is it not like masturbation? You don’t benefit anyone but yourself.
Haha so this comment aroused a long period of laughter in the last panel discussion I attended at Singapore Writer’s Festival today and the topic for that panel was the quote “All Art is Quite Useless” with Kim Young-ha, Kuo Jian Hong, Anthony Chen and Heman Chong on the panel discussing this topic. Tied in with another panel discussion I attended today also over the issue “Can Literature Do Good?”, both panels were exploring the reason why people write and what’s the significance in writing? Can writing really change the world?
What I absorbed from the panel discussions as I look at the notes I took down and recall the comments raised is that the impact of writing depends not just on the creator but on the reader, what intentions the creator creates the form of art and what perspective the reader approaches the work with. And with that, every piece of good literature (by good we refer to the craftsmanship of the piece of work) has the power of influence as a tool of communication to help the creator express a certain idea that he has.
From the panel discussions yesterday and today, I have heard countless writers speak about why they write and these writers come from diverse backgrounds and varying stories about how they landed up in the careers, whichever they are, writing for different purposes. So here I would like to, in point form, list the reasons why people write:
THE LIST OF WRITE REASONS
1. It takes responsibility to have an opinion- when you have an opinion, you have the responsibility to share it; but only those with courage write to share it.
2. We should not shy away from the things that we can and should be talking about, contribute to the open debate!
3. Technology is a powerful tool for sharing- are we using these tools to contribute to the intellectual life of our country?
4. Write to remember: write before you forget, not when you’re in the 80s
5. Literature engages people, it helps us make connections with those around us because we learn to empathise. (Though a question raised at this point was if we are evoking empathy for the right group of people. We often have access to literature by groups of people who are already in a good position in hold of power and not to the literature of the people who really should be heard because they aren’t equipped with the tools)
6. To construct meanings behind things in life- for the clarity of thought.
7. To reassert identity.
8. Art is a necessary process of understanding who you are: writing is one of the ways.
And in response to the quote that is the title of this post, quoting one of the speakers, “writing is only like masturbation when you don’t have the intention of wanting to connect; if you do it right, you can say it’s like sex”