The Goal of a Writer

Seth GodinI recently asked Seth Godin why he wrote Stop Stealing Dreams, an eBook on the problems with the educational system.

I wanted to know his intention — what drove him to write it — and why he decided to give the book away for free.

Here’s what he said:

One of the goals of the writer is to strike a chord. Usually, you guess. You have no idea if the topic is ripe, if the audience is ready.

This time, I didn’t have to guess, because my readers told me that this was a vitally important topic and they wanted to be provoked.

It was a privilege to provoke them.

The ease of publication makes it far more likely that more authors will get the same chance.

With the manifesto having been downloaded over 500,000 times, Seth clearly struck a chord with his audience. (For example, see this review or this one.)

This is why we love Seth — he provokes us. Compels us to think differently. Whether we agree with him or not, we keep coming back for more.

The nobility of being provocative

This is the mark of a great communicator — he makes you think. Causes you to doubt. It’s why we care about and spread important messages, even if we disagree with them.

Great writers know this. They understand the nobility of being provocative — they’re masters of it. They force us out of our comfort zones so we can see something old with new eyes.

And in the end, we’re better for it.

Take a stance (any stance)

I recently wrote a post about the future of writing. People either loved or hated it. Several bloggers posted strong reactions on their blogs — some in favor and others in vehement opposition. I’m elated with both.

Because my goal wasn’t to be right. It was to make you think. Mission accomplished.

The goal here isn’t to merely be contentious for the sake of being contentious. Rather, it’s to be bold. To take a stance. And if we’re wrong, to humbly admit it and learn from the failure.

What I’m trying to get you to do is avoid being safe. There’s no life in that kind of art.

So what’s your goal as a writer?

Is it to pander and placate? To not make anyone angry? Maintain the status quo and keep everyone happy?

That’s not enough (not to mention, impossible). We need you — and your words.

To upset us.
Incite us.
Provoke us.

(I hope you will.)

Don’t forget to grab Seth’s eBook Stop Stealing Dreams. It’s free here.

What do you think the goal of a writer is? Share in the comments.