It's a broad question and one I ask myself nearly every day. I'm not sure why I write or even half the time what the heck I am writing about. I just know on occasion I need to write because it quiets some sort of internal strife inside me.
When I was younger I used to play with elaborate fantasies with dwarfs and trolls and all sorts of magic that was clearly an offshoot of my loving novels by Roger Zelazny and Piers Anthony (Zelazny's work I'm still proud of loving, Anthony's not so much). I remember writing being a fun adventure for me. In many regards it still is an adventure, but I know that over time my rationale for writing has changed.
I can nearly chart my progression of writing based on my age and what I was feeling during that time. My adolescent angst writing is so bad that I'm now embarrassed that I proudly showed it to people at the time (my mom actually sent a really bad teen anixety poem into a magazine once. We got no reply). My teen angst writing can be filtered into one category: writing I did because I was depressed about some girl. Oddly enough I began a sort of pseudo-blog back then called an ejournal in which I expressed all my adolescent anxieties and gossiped about my friends. Cleverly I would change their names to their first initial so that no one could figure out who they were. I doubt anybody could crack that code. My primary reason for writing this journal was to get a girl named Robin to date me.
It didn't quite work out.
When I entered college, my writing became a strange mirror image of what I was currently studying. When we were reading Hemingway, I wrote lots of manly things about fishing and bonding and all sorts of groin scratching good times. Vonnegut became Vonnegut, and so on... While I wrote some good stuff, I generally acknowledge that my college years were a time of growing my writing style into a cohesive former. My experimental years in college were with poetry and literature rather than alcohol and drugs (okay maybe a little on the alcohol and drugs).
But I'm out of college now, I teach people how to write and I can't quite figure out my impetus for doing it. I started a livejournal once to impress another girl (which worked the second time) but that wasn't anything serious. Occasionally I'll start novels, but I often get wiped out at work with reading papers, so I hardly ever have the extra time to devote to a fruitful idea.
I guess the major problem is that I dont want to be one of those writers who uses writing as a means to complain. One of my ex-girlfriends, whose blog I voyueristically read, constantly writes about how bad her life is. She analyzes the hell out of every bad situation by writing about her feelings and some guys feelings and how her cat may have been feeling at the time. What's amusing is that at the end of many of her entries the question "Am I overanalyzing this?" usually pops up.
Lets have a brief message from our sponsor: Captain Obvious.
So I suppose the short answer is to keep writing and see what happens. Or take a zen approach and clear my mind before attempting to write down my thoughts. Or stop writing altogether and go to bed.