Joseph Epstein’s just published a lovely essay on this puzzle in Commentary. It takes the form of a review of a book on the neurophysiology of writing (a science which, let it be said, underwhelms him). It begins:
“I was recently asked what it takes to become a writer. Three things, I answered: first, one must cultivate incompetence at almost every other form of profitable work. This must be accompanied, second, by a haughty contempt for all the forms of work that one has established one cannot do. To these two must be joined, third, the nuttiness to believe that other people can be made to care about your opinions and views and be charmed by the way you state them. Incompetence, contempt, lunacy — once you have these in place, you are set to go.
But why bother writing at all? What would motivate anyone to take up what often turns out to be a life fraught with many obstacles and few palpable rewards? This vexing question has received a number of usually unsatisfactory answers. They include the notions that serious writers are divinely inspired; that they have a preternatural love of aesthetic order; that they are in relentless pursuit of the truth (as they understand it); and, on the somewhat less complimentary side, that they are ego-driven and therefore attention-craving beyond all reckoning…”
En passant, much the same is said of Bloggers…