IN WHY WE WRITE: TWENTY ACCLAIMED AUTHORS ON HOW AND WHY THEY DO WHAT THEY DO, Michael Lewis offers the following:
There’s no simple explanation for why I write. It changes over time. There’s no hole inside me to fill or anything like that, but once I started doing it, I couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything else for a living. I noticed very quickly that writing was the only way for me to lose track of the time.
...The reasons I write change over time. In the beginning, it was that sense of losing time. Now it’s changed, because I have a sense of an audience. I have the sense that I can biff the world a bit. I don’t know that I have control of the direction of the pinball, but I can exert a force.
My response to the question—Why do you write?—has always been, "For the money and the women." But a more serious reply, written by me nearly 10 years ago, recently surfaced on the interwebs, for some reason:
Writing for me has been a means of satisfying two compulsions. One is the compulsion to draw attention to myself; I am a contradiction, a loner who nevertheless wants to be noticed. Which, I suppose, means that I want to be noticed, but only on my terms. The other is the compulsion to figure out how the world works, and then belabor strangers with stories that express what I’ve figured out. That I’ve been preceded in this by men and women both smarter and more talented than me is no deterrent. Like so many writers, I always think that my take on the truth is at least a micron or two more accurate than anyone else’s. And I hold dear the central notion that truth must be testified. Then there is the pragmatic consideration that writing is the one means of making a living for which I seem suited. Finally, there is the charge I get, after 30 [now 40] years in the trade, of creating a well-formed sentence. I am besotted with language, and have never tired of playing with it.
Still works for me, though I do like Michael Lewis' "sense that I can biff the world a little bit." Who can resist trying to biff the world? Not me.