In this interview with the Guardian, Brian Eno explains the process of creating and naming “ambient” music. It reminds me a great deal of what many writers say about why they write:
My interest in making music has been to create something that does not exist that I would like to listen to, not because I wanted a job as a musician. I wanted to hear music that had not yet happened, by putting together things that suggested a new thing which did not yet exist. It’s like having a ready-made formula if you are able to read it.
I recently reread an article about Toni Morrison’s Beloved, with a rather remarkable title. This Eno interview reminded me of another statement I read by Morrison, in which she said that she writes the books she wants to read. I agree with Morrison, so far — that’s why I wrote Alcestis, and that’s what’s motivating me to write Killingly — but I know there must be authors who wouldn’t say the same thing, who would attribute their compulsion to write to other reasons entirely. I can’t imagine that Joan Didion sat down to write The Year of Magical Thinking just because she wanted to read it, for example. But I think that’s always a small part of writerly motivation. You can enjoy the the nebulous ideas that form a book, but not in the same way that you enjoy the book itself.
But then, what to do with writers who, like actors who won’t watch their own movies, insist that they never re-read their finished work? Thoughts? Is the process of completing the book enough for you, as a writer?
Edited to add: Also check Austin Kleon’s post about the same topic, with a riff from John Gardner on “writing what you like.”