What's worse: Ignorance, hard-earned failure, or apathy? If you're going to be a writer, you're probably going to achieve one of these three things, unless you have to have an intelligent, well-rounded voice and something special to give to your audience. Otherwise you're useless or you're sensational. You have to have a point to what you're saying, you have to have lots of supporting details to back it up, and you have to be better and smarter than the other voices. Otherwise, what purpose do you serve; in what way aren't you interchangeable?
It's important to find a niche where you can give something that people can't get elsewhere. Screenplays, novels, letters, poems, articles, essays. There are lots of mediums to start from. But this is 2011. Everyone writes, and nobody reads. The clamoring for eyes is getting tougher now. Take journalism: If I quit writing for the school newspaper, thirty other writers are there to write my articles. If I drop out of the journalism school, there are hundreds of prospective students readying to wash away my minute impact. If the University of Missouri burns to the ground, there are tens of other top-notch journalism schools in America churning out journalism automatons by the thousands.
Everyone wants to leave something behind, whether it's a child for biological posterity or some piece for intellectual or artistic or mechanical posterity. Everyone wants their little humble share of immortality. Writers can forget about biological posterity; they're not getting laid. But their work is pretty likely to get completely overlooked, too. On the off-chance that you somehow eventually find a publisher willing to print your new novel, who's actually going to read it, honestly? Even if it's brilliant, it's doubtful anyone will pay any attention until you commit suicide. So the only choice is to be the very best, and to hope for just that. To illustrate with imagery so subtle no one but you will ever notice it and to pack every sentence with adjectives and metaphors wherever you can like it's your job, because it is. You might stumble into a wonderful talent for stream-of-consciousness writing, or you might find that you're really good at analyzing certain aspects of modern society. But somehow, in some way, you have a responsibility to give the audience something accurate, unique, and thought-provoking to write home about.
Writers don't see their services as comparable to an oil change or a roof repair. Writers tend to be dreamers. They want their pages to forge new pathways, to enlighten and entertain the world in ways it has never seen before, to draw the world with words and, with any luck, to change it. They're also performance art majors in disguise. They will jockey for your eyes and struggle with all their might to hold them. It's attention whorery for those who, for whatever reason, don't want attention. Or, it's a voice for those who speak better with their pens. And it's all one can hope that the world will need that voice. "Derek says it's always good to end a paper with a quote. He says someone else has already said it best. So if you can't top it, steal from them and go out strong," says Edward Furlong in American History X. I don't think I buy it.