I can recall many times when I was in the English classroom, my students would tell me the reason they were writing an essay was because their teacher told them to write it. I always died a bit inside when I would read that sentence because, while it was true I had assigned the essay, that never should have been the reason for writing it.
No matter what the underlined purpose for writing an essay (or any type of writing for that matter) there is always something the writer wants to express to the reader. Every writer has a purpose. Every word written has a function beyond the literal one of being on the page. There is always a reason why an author uses this word over that one. The writer picks and choses what details to expand on and which ones to compress. Every time a person writes, there is a purpose.
In strictly non-fiction, purpose doesn’t change as much. Normally when one sets out to write about a subject, through the writing the subject stays static.
However, when dealing in the word of Creative Non-Fiction and Fiction, a writer’s purpose tends to change from draft to draft. In my own writing, the purpose I have in the first draft is never the purpose I find in my later drafts.
Why is that?
In my opinion, I think drafts are the writer’s way of cleaning out his or her brain. Kurt Vonnegut’s book, Breakfast of Champions starts out with Vonnegut telling his reader this book is basically him taking all the thoughts (strange as they may be) and putting them down on paper. Whether that statement is true or is hyperbole could be debated. However, I believe it is important for a writer to get all his or her thoughts on the paper in order to find the true meaning or his or her true purpose in writing the story.
For example, I have this story that started about four years ago. It was just a page and a half long and it was about a man coming out of a coma. Now the story is about twelve pages and explores the man and his relationship with his mother, his friends, and finally his girlfriend. When I first wrote the story, I had no intention of writing a piece on relationships. But now, that is the story I am working with.
Our characters tell us what to write. We can’t force them into a plot or a setting. They will revolt.
The same is true in setting a purpose. Don’t be afraid to let your purpose change as your drafts change. It is all part of the bigger writing process picture.