Drake immediately put Lafferty on the spot by asking her the same question. This was interesting for a couple of reasons. First, while the two both write SF, Drake focuses on military settings. Second, the two come from very different generations. Drake is a Vietnam veteran; Lafferty hails from Generation X.
Lafferty said something about always knowing she wanted to be a writer, how much she wanted to publish, how much she liked writing — in short, what most writers would say if put on the spot. But Drake was after something a little deeper.
It’s the same thing Simon Sinek is talking about in this TED Talk. If overly motivational speakers bug you, don’t watch it. The delivery is a bit too precious for my taste. But what Sinek says is that great leaders don’t start with What — they start with Why. You can apply the same idea to get to the root motivation of a company, a social movement, and, I think, even a writer.
David Drake said in his interview that he writes because he has to: It’s his way of dealing with what he saw in Vietnam. That’s his Why.
When we talk about the products of writing — contracts, royalties, seeing your name in print — that’s all the What, not the Why. Figuring out what that thing is will get you to the root of your writing. And I’ve got a hunch that it might also make you a better writer.
What’s my Why? That’s a topic for another post.