Why We Write

April 20, 2008

Why We Write – Number 53: Curtis Kheel

Filed under: Uncategorized — Charlie Craig @ 11:34 am
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Number 53

Today’s piece is written by Curtis Kheel, Writer/Producer on “EUREKA,” and former Writer/Producer on “CHARMED.”


I’m not like other writers.  I don’t “gotta write.”   Yeah, you know who you are.  You’re the ones who have a writing day job, but also always have a screenplay, pilot, play, novel, short story, journal, or epic grocery list going on the side that you just can’t stop writing on your own.   I know all about you.  You’re everywhere.

I call you the “gotta writers.”  Because you “gotta write” all the time, even when you have free time that I would be using for anything but writing.

To me, writing is hard work.  Painful sometimes.  It’s a job like any other job, and unless I’m getting paid for it, I don’t want to do it,.  I really don’t get why people would do it for free on their own.  You don’t see accountants running home on the weekends and gleefully locking themselves away to crunch numbers just because they’ve “gotta account,” do you?

The truth is — and I know this won’t be inspirational even if it is truthful — I have no wonderful stories that I absolutely must share.  No moral messages I’m desperate to impart.  No colorful characters that simply MUST be given a voice.   Sure, I can come up with wonderful stories, moral messages, and colorful characters… but that’s work!  (And please don’t get me started on ‘spec scripts’, which in my world are an unfortunate but apparently necessary means-to-an-end).

I am writer for hire, pure and simple.  A “gotta pay-me” writer, if you will.  The applause and laughter in response to my work is a nice reward, but the paycheck is even nicer.

Still, I know I’m also in the minority in this respect, even though I am certain there are others out there like me.  Writers who remain silent when the “gotta writers” rattle on about their passion projects, making us feel like we should apologize for not having one ourselves.  Writers who inwardly roll their eyes when the “gotta writers” prescribe creative writing as some sort of magical cure for all of life’s ills. Writers who simply choose to write because it’s a decent-enough way to make money, not out of some deep, soulful commitment to the craft.

Sound familiar?  It’s okay.  You’re not alone.  I’m one of you.

If there was a world in which I could make the same living yet not write, I’d do that in a heartbeat.   Maybe the “gotta writers” can’t possibly fathom such a notion, but believe me, I can and I have.  Maybe it’s because I don’t “gotta write” that I often wonder about other paths.  In fact, every time I end up out of a work for a few months, usually around the time I start to worry that I’ll never work again, the same questions run through my head:  Isn’t there SOMETHING else I can do for a living? Something easier maybe?

Could I be a doctor?  No.  I feel sick at the sight of blood.

Lawyer?   No.  I feel sick at the sight of enormous law books that I’d have to read.

Indian Chief?  I suspect that I don’t meet the eligibility requirements.

Policeman?  I might get shot.

Soldier?  I might get shot

Teacher?  I might get shot.

Postman?  Either I might get shot or I might actually do the shooting myself.

Pilot?  I might crash.

Fireman?  I might burn.

Psychiatrist?  I hate listening to people whine about their problems.

Bartender?  Also involves listening to whining.  No.

Salesman?  Only if the product sells itself.  Literally. Cause that seems hard.

Handyman?  I can barely change a light bulb.

Mechanic?  I can barely change a tire.  Aw, hell, I can’t even do that.

Do-Gooder?  Yeah, right. 

Wizard?  Requires seven years’ study at Hogwarts, and I’d never get in.

Career after career, I can always find reasons why the other options are more objectionable than being a writer.  But maybe that’s the beauty of being a writer. I can try all of those professions, be all of those people, just by sitting at my computer and engaging in the fine art of storytelling.  Maybe that’s what the “gotta writers” have been trying to tell me all along.  Hmm, maybe that’s why I write…?

Nah.  It’s about the money.



WHY WE WRITE is a series of essays by prominent – and not so prominent – TV and Film writers.  Conceived by Charlie Craig and Thania St. John, the campaign hopes to inspire and inform all writers.  If you’d like to comment, or tell us why you write, visit the Why We Write WordPress site or contact us at whywewrite@gmail.com.


  1. The URL for this post still has the incorrect number 52. Also, it’s kind of shady to delete corrections as if you never made a mistake in the first place.

    -Person who first pointed out that the title was numbered incorrectly, in a now-deleted comment

    Comment by Allison — April 20, 2008 @ 1:20 pm | Reply

  2. [raises hand with renewed conviction] Uh, I’m one, too. Thank the Lords of Kobol you wrote this. And here I’ve been feeling like a passionless schlub for all these years. A faker. ‘Cuz I’m just not into writing every waking moment in a Natalie Goldberg-esque fashion. I’m just not. I have too many other interests. Thanks for taking the risk to expose your true nature. And your list of questions was precious.

    Comment by Karen R — April 27, 2008 @ 4:14 pm | Reply


    Comment by Angela — April 29, 2008 @ 9:06 am | Reply

  4. That is honestly very funny. I sometimes find myself in the category you find yourself in and sometimes in the category of “gotta write”. Thanks for sharing your “story” and g’luck in the future.

    Comment by Danny Mac — May 11, 2008 @ 3:57 am | Reply

  5. Very funny!! I wasn’t expecting myself to read through the whole piece, but you kept me hooked till the end and had everyone wondering why I was laughing at the computer! Great read!

    Comment by Mel — May 17, 2008 @ 1:07 pm | Reply

    • That’s the EXACT way I felt! That was just precious…

      Comment by Marie — May 3, 2011 @ 5:30 pm | Reply

  6. I wonder if the difference between the gotta writers and the writers who write because it’s a decent way to make a living is that the gotta writers can’t make a living at writing and therefore need a different rationale.

    Comment by writer reading — June 7, 2008 @ 8:50 am | Reply

  7. First, the ‘fess up: I’m a “gotta writer”, a woman on a creative non-fiction mission to educate the masses on how to be happy while still being dysfunctional. You’d probably hate me.

    But for this post I HAD to write, just to say that I loved your piece and spurted out my mouthful of H2O LOL-ing when I read, “Wizard? Requires seven years’ study at Hogwarts, and I’d never get in.” You are definitely a writer, “gotta writer” or “gotta pay-me writer”, no other professional is that resignedly bitter and self-mocking about his career choice.

    PS I loved “Charmed”.

    Comment by Sophie in the Moonlight — June 12, 2008 @ 1:42 pm | Reply

  8. I’m not a writer, but I’m a video editor… so you can say I write with images. I feel so much better now about what I do, because you made me realize that I’m not the only one who works in the “arts” that does it for money and doesn’t care about doing it his free time.

    I’m tired of friends and family coming up to me asking me to edit something for them, knowing this will have to happen when I’m supposed to relax and get away from a computer, and that I’ll have to do it for free. They think that a 5 minute video takes 5 minutes to edit. Well, it doesn’t. It takes hours and hours, especially if you want to do it right.

    I want to be the best at what I do, as long as I can get away from it when I’m not working.

    I always hated homework, and still do, even if it’s something I “like” doing.

    Thanks for opening my eyes and making me feel less bad about not committing my life to my “art”. I’m so glad I’m not a “gotta’ edit” guy.

    Comment by Adriano — June 13, 2008 @ 11:45 am | Reply

  9. How on earth do you get to the point of making money at writing if you don’t like writing? Now, I suppose I’m a gotta-write writer if you also mean people who get bored doing anything else and are so self-obsessed that spending too much time in one’s own head sounds like a great way to get through life. Let’s see…in my free time I could…ummm…watch TV, clean the house,…um…surf the net for parenting articles…do good works…maybe…

    But whatev, because what I fail to understand is how you got a job as a writer if you were not writing something on your own to begin with. What do they do in TV these days? Do they say, “Hey, you there, not writing. You look like you hate writing. Come write for TV and we’ll pay you! Writing samples? We don’t need no sticking writing samples–after all, you don’t write!”

    And does that mean when you were 18 and no one in TV show world would give you the time of day, you actually thought–I don’t like writing so I’ll try my luck in Hollywood writing scripts!

    There probably is some truth to the comment by writer reading, but perhaps a paycheck takes the “gotta” out of anything.

    Comment by mapelba — June 14, 2008 @ 8:05 pm | Reply

  10. I found myself smiling from start to finish. I also doubt I’ve ever given it much thought before, but thank goodness there are writers such as “you”. I take it you are one of those writers to whom I am in debt for hours of TV amusement and truly good TV drama, not to mention writing that requires actual reading. If so, my sincere thanks. Mary from Meander With Me

    Comment by mary a. kaufman — June 16, 2008 @ 10:12 am | Reply

  11. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Parkinsonism

    Comment by Parkinsonism — June 18, 2008 @ 8:26 am | Reply

  12. Why did you write this?

    Comment by noaman — July 4, 2008 @ 11:10 pm | Reply

  13. That was beautiful. Do you know how hard it is to get me to read through anything and read through every sentence? Very hard, I tell you.

    So you’re not a “gotta writer”. That’s what I consider myself to be, making drawn-out grocery lists (with cute notes in parenthesis just because), writing dialogs, making characters, typing up nonsense, all because I just feel like it! Understandably, when writing becomes a job, then it is, well, a job, and like any job, you gotta complain about it as being work. You are not a gotta writer because writing is your day job.

    Though in a sense, I don’t get it. Writing is like talking. If you had a job talking to crowds of people all day, and then you go home from your day of work, you’re not going to stop talking, are you? Highly doubt it.

    Anyway, fun read. I chuckled a few times and had the urge to show somebody sitting close by. The sad thing is, my dogs don’t read, so they’re not laughing with me like I hoped they would…

    Comment by Czenko — July 14, 2008 @ 5:10 pm | Reply

  14. Hilarious.

    If your writing is all about money….you’re one of the lucky ones:)

    Comment by damyantig — September 24, 2008 @ 6:10 am | Reply

  15. for me, its simply because i love to write. hehe

    Comment by Parantar — October 13, 2008 @ 5:15 pm | Reply

  16. there always be a good reason why we write 🙂

    Comment by TechNald — November 18, 2008 @ 4:22 am | Reply

  17. I was unaware that contributors to this site were compensated.

    Comment by Scratch — November 20, 2008 @ 10:59 am | Reply

  18. They’re not.

    Comment by Charlie Craig — November 20, 2008 @ 11:11 am | Reply

  19. I would rather find something I loved then doing something I dreaded. Why keep on fighting? You should ad a number 17 to that career list: Writer? Nah, I might eventually get fed up and ram a pen into my eyesocket someday.

    Comment by greys — December 16, 2008 @ 12:00 pm | Reply

  20. Thanks for your information. Most of the posts in the blog is really valuable. Regards

    Comment by UK Essay Writer — December 23, 2008 @ 9:26 pm | Reply

  21. Maybe, Mr. Curtis Kheel, the problem comes from ‘what’ you write.

    Comment by Thalia — January 6, 2009 @ 2:21 am | Reply

  22. How on earth did you know about my grocery list? It’s the only thing i gotta write… fairly frequently – if there is such a thing as “frequently” in a writer’s life. In general, I do as little as possible as often as possible for as much as possible. That’s why I can write grocery lists. You’re right on the money there!

    Comment by Jimmy Alison — February 6, 2009 @ 10:36 am | Reply

  23. Now that I can see all the dangers of being shot in other jobs, I guess it is time to write. Some great points by the way.

    Comment by japanese words — March 11, 2009 @ 8:18 am | Reply

  24. Love it! why is it the last post tho?

    Comment by rdl — March 17, 2009 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

  25. i love writing so much!

    Comment by Hampang — March 23, 2009 @ 6:37 am | Reply

  26. Makes me want to write again…good stuff.

    Comment by fn. d. b. — April 7, 2009 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

  27. i love to write!

    Comment by Cory Cong — April 8, 2009 @ 7:11 am | Reply

  28. i feel your pain! i’m also a professional writer who doesn’t feel the need to write outside the 9-5 workday. it’s a living, and a pretty good one at that. it’s not that i don’t enjoy it, i do. it’s even fun sometimes, but it’s not my life. but as i’ve always said, i’m not a “real” writer (now thanks for the new and better term “gotta writers” at least i can stop saying “real” writer. it still is my job after all, haha), i just happen to be good at it–at least enough to get paid. thanks so much for your post—at least i know there are others out there too.

    Comment by mrox — April 22, 2009 @ 8:53 pm | Reply

  29. Another wonderful piece.

    Comment by or - טכנאי מחשבים — May 11, 2009 @ 3:02 pm | Reply

  30. my answer for the question “why we write” is simple. because someone wants to read. LOL!

    Comment by Nero 9 Serial — July 11, 2009 @ 1:48 am | Reply

  31. this was great. my favorite line “bartender? also involves listening to people whine. no”

    I can totally relate to this “gotta-write” thing – so many people are constantly working, coffee shops, home, work, taking notes all the time. bah! I have to force myself to do it.

    Comment by Chris — July 22, 2009 @ 8:17 am | Reply

  32. I liked this because of the other side it gave me. I don’t agree with it 100% but it is pretty eye opening. Two thumbs up!

    Comment by notepple — July 24, 2009 @ 1:17 pm | Reply

  33. It is a funny post but it is written with openness.
    And this was great: Postman? Either I might get shot or I might actually do the shooting myself.

    Comment by J — July 30, 2009 @ 6:35 am | Reply

  34. it is pretty amazing! love it!

    Comment by UFC 101 Live Stream — August 6, 2009 @ 10:38 pm | Reply

  35. I agree with you. I don’t like to write unless I get paid for it either. I have written two novels, so far, and have one published and I still don’t like to write all that much unless there’s money in it for me. Great essay. Thanks.
    Jerry Watson
    The Antiquarian Chronicles

    Comment by Jerry Watson — August 7, 2009 @ 4:11 pm | Reply

  36. This resonated with me. Thank you for writing this. And even if you don’t get paid for this (do you?) I just thought you might like to know that it made me laugh.

    Comment by Karin — August 10, 2009 @ 11:13 pm | Reply

  37. writing is my way of expressing my thougts, ideas, and experiences. Without writing, I cannot do my diary. 😀

    Comment by Cezille — August 15, 2009 @ 7:50 am | Reply

  38. writing is my passion!

    Comment by UFC 102 Live Stream — August 24, 2009 @ 7:13 am | Reply

  39. They think that a 5 minute video takes 5 minutes to edit. Well, it doesn’t. It takes hours and hours, especially if you want to do it right.

    Comment by deeper voice — August 29, 2009 @ 1:57 am | Reply

  40. Oh, I think the word Charmed guy is fumbling for is “hack.”

    Comment by Comment No. Whatever — January 16, 2010 @ 8:58 am | Reply

  41. Because it is author’s desire and passion to express what they have.

    Comment by den parser — January 17, 2010 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

  42. I’m not necessarily a “gotta writer,” but I really dislike this point of view. I’ve heard it before and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Just felt like sayin’ it!

    Comment by Elliott — January 28, 2010 @ 6:45 pm | Reply

  43. What a wonderful read. I laughed so hard – you are so funny! I read it several times and also shared it with my daughter. Thanks, and please continue to write.

    Comment by Sandra — April 18, 2010 @ 2:13 pm | Reply

  44. Sometimes I “gotta write” but sometimes I don’t want to write. I rarely get paid for my writing, though, but get paid to teach writing. I don’t think a true writer needs to wait for a paycheck, but should possibly wait for inspiration. Without inspiration, I find it very difficult to write. But, as writers, we’re told we need to write every day. Is a true writer someone who writes everyday or gets paid to write? It’s tricky, and I don’t think any one writer can agree on an answer to that.

    Thanks for this essay: I laughed, I almost cried, I got angry. But in the end, I respect your opinion, even if I don’t fully agree with it.

    Comment by The Accidental Blogger — August 9, 2010 @ 2:13 pm | Reply

  45. I write everyday because I enjoy doing it. And since I post my articles to my own blogs, I know my articles will not be edited, distorted, or worse, rejected. Of course, there’s an ulterior motive for my writing: earn some money. Just like “gotta writer” I look forward to being paid. But I get paid by the traffic that my writing attracts. I have over 300 articles out there, and many have been syndicated and posted in a constallation of sites and blogs.
    So, I keep writing every day. If I have a little time, I translate articles from Spanish and French; another enjoyable activity.

    Comment by marciano guerrero — October 21, 2010 @ 5:06 am | Reply

  46. Have you ever met an accountant? My friend is an accountant and keeps a detailed statistical breakdown of each baseball season as it unfolds. Don’t pick your examples so lightly.

    Comment by M Niemi — November 6, 2010 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

  47. good post , you are one of the best writers i’ve known

    Comment by zodiac signs — November 16, 2010 @ 4:30 am | Reply

  48. nice man , this article it’s exactly what we all want to see.

    Comment by How to get rid of problem — November 16, 2010 @ 4:31 am | Reply

  49. I was sitting here at my computer motionless, eyes shut and hands ready over the keyboard, and then I found your website. I was about to write the first article for my first blog ever when the little voices started saying “you can’t do this”. I had previously decided to no longer entertain these feelings of self doubt… so in a moment of self-preservation I took a break and pressed the Stumble! button. This is where I ended up, and I’m glad I did. Your articles are honest and funny. They made me realize that writing can’t be taken too seriously. So thank you for the inspiration… and for writing.

    Comment by Melissa — December 7, 2010 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  50. Seems artless at first, and bit of a consumerist big city type of person writing this. Hope the rest of life isn’t clourless… or maybe the shattering of the ideal is what is at steak here?!
    Its the same with other cliched arts practices.

    Comment by Artist's in Progress — January 5, 2011 @ 6:08 am | Reply

  51. This person didn’t get paid to write this…
    so I feel like this person writes for more than just money.

    Comment by Leah — January 19, 2011 @ 11:18 am | Reply

  52. Thank you. You are refreshing. You are not trying to make your profession sound like The Eternal Fount of Pro-biotic Smoothies that everyone else seems to think it is.

    I make my living, such as it is, as a gigging bass player in cover bands, so I understand what it is like to hate what you do. There is no love of music involved, but there is much skill–YOU try to make a drunk drummer, a self-absorbed guitard who refuses to listen to the rhythm section (all the while deciding they don’t have to learn songs properly–good luck following that!), and a tone deaf singer sound good!

    Oh yeah; let’s not forget bar owners who drink their profits away, piss off regular customers, double book bands and lie to you when they cancel gigs that were booked months in advance, then bitch when you don’t have 200 people coming to your gig!

    I hate 90% of what passes for music these days (and 99% of musicians), but I’m considered one of the better musicians in my area, and I get paid for it, so I reckon that I understand why you write. Money talks and B.S. keeps journals.

    Rock on, brother!

    Comment by Dixon L. Creasey, Jr. — January 24, 2011 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

  53. this is funny. thanks for posting…..

    Comment by tommy — January 25, 2011 @ 5:06 pm | Reply

  54. Agreed. I, like many others, started a blog in order to see if I could turn it into a buck, or at least learn how to get people to visit my site. I suck at it. I get about 25 unique visitors per day and have done so since I started in December 2010. Granted, I only write when I get around to it, and half the time I’m drunk when I get to it.

    I think blogging for cash requires more time and effort than I’m willing to put in, so I’m just gonna keep my blog going just for kicks. I used to spend a lot of time on Yahoo answers and other sites, but I think I should just use my knowledge to educate the yahoos that visit my site instead of adding to the pseudo-knowledge that is Yahoo Answers. Those people are ridiculous.

    If you want a good example of how NOT to write successfully, then you should check out the following blog entry. I’ve gotten very little response from it, even though I spent a lot of time fact checking and making sure that everything I said was true. Here’s the link.


    I would appreciate any ideas about how to get more views. I no longer look to the internet as a possible source of income so now I’m just using you all as a barometer to see if I should even try to write at all. Please let me know what you think.

    Note: please leave a comment on my site if you want me to see it. I won’t get it otherwise.

    Comment by mentalbiscuits — February 3, 2011 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

  55. I write because my Mum told me she was a good writer. I’m not sure what that means or how it affected me. We lost her and it’s almost like passing the torch. I also write for the sense of accomplishment and to read something I want to. But the actual process of writing… I have to say… I don’t care for!

    Comment by mrtaurus — February 9, 2011 @ 11:57 pm | Reply

  56. Yes, I am a ‘gotta write’ person. I work as a content writer for a firm and has been with this current employer for more than 3 yrs now. I just write. Eight hours, five days a week. When I am a little lucky, I’d get a respite from writing a number of at least 500-words article and get to write meta information instead. Apparently, that is still writing.

    Anyway, I thank God I stumbled upon this site. Great insights you have in here.

    Comment by reamay — March 2, 2011 @ 10:24 pm | Reply

  57. Wow, what a cynical post.

    Comment by Gerard Iribe — March 14, 2011 @ 1:45 pm | Reply

  58. i stumbleupon this and for some odd reason i believe you do have purpose and writing is hard work. believe me. but it’s all about attitude, if you care what people think then it will suck the life right out of you. i know that too. thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Purple'S Theory — March 16, 2011 @ 4:11 am | Reply

  59. I was going to post a rather large section of text about why I believe you need passion to be a good writer. But then I re-read your article and realized it only mentioned being a writer, it didn´t mention being a good or a bad writer, just being a writer.

    So I suppose you have a fair view point.

    Comment by Ellert0 — April 3, 2011 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

  60. i love to write a lot. That is why i have so many blogs because everything that comes on my mind, i write it right away to my blog.

    Comment by Lotto Results — April 28, 2011 @ 11:14 pm | Reply

  61. Usually I do not learn post on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice article.

    Comment by get your ex boyfriend back fast — August 24, 2011 @ 5:56 am | Reply

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