What got you started as a writer?
I always loved writing from the time I was able to. I remember I started out in the realm of fanfiction. I had an awesome Mega Man fanfic in pre-memory that expanded the cast of the Mega Man games to absurd levels and had a pretty rocking happy ending. My next big writery act was in the beginning of real memory with a 16-page single-spaced crossover between the cast of Bunnicula and I think original characters.
By then, I had already devoured Tolkien and steadily progressed through the entirety of the Dragonlance saga and any other fantasy I could get my hands on. By high school, I wanted original characters. But there was a lot more.
In all of the fantasy I was reading, in all of the shows I was watching, there were heroes! These sometimes humble beginnings underdogs, sometimes larger-than-life supermen (sometimes both!), honest-to-God HEROES.
(Aside: So the TV show "Heroes" had what characters playing as actual heroes? Ostensibly Peter and Hiro were the title characters, but in the later seasons they fell entirely too much and really now, only two out of the absurdly large cast?)
These heroes fought, debated or won over the worlds they existed in and did real good.
They weren't always the best people (see: Lancelot), but sometimes that didn't matter. What mattered was what they did for those around them. What mattered was that no matter how bad things got or how much they mucked up the situation, they KEPT trying and they helped. They really helped.
More than that. They taught me the kind of person I wanted to be.
Honesty. Integrity. Doing the right thing no matter how much it hurts. Doing the right thing for the right reasons even if you are going to be punished for it or go unacknowledged. Educating myself. Fighting against ignorance and not backing down from my morals, while keeping my pride in check and not fighting over things that don't matter. They. Kept. Going.
And I became the man I aspired to be (at least I'm happy with where I am morally/ethically, I have no illusions about my physical fitness or my economic class). I've had hiccups and mistakes along the way, but I kept trying. I keep trying. Even with pushups and jobs.
I wouldn't have aspired to this without those fictional examples of excellence. Without the supermen and spider-men of my childhood, without the Arthurs, Tarans, Mega Men or even anthropomorphized animals. I don't know who I would be without them.
I frequently annoy my mother by saying I was raised by television, but I don't truly mean this as an insult to her parenting (or my father's, to whom I would never say that). I mean that fiction, be it on the page or on the screen, showed me the kind of person I wanted to be. I'm sure without my parents, I would probably have aspired to be the Wilys, Doc Octs, and Mordreds of my youth instead, or I might not have gotten the message at best, but without fiction, I wouldn't be who I am today.
And I realized that fiction has this power to change people. To show people.
Now, I try not to soapbox in my writings (at least my fictional ones, be prepared to be harangued in my nonfiction, although that's usually about math...), but still, if everyone could be inspired the way I was inspired. Even if it was just to continue educating themselves or to realize that helping others is good and that intolerance is probably not the best attitude to have with others. If I could do that for ONE person...
Well it would be worth it.
It was a pretty big shift in my fantasizing. When I was a kid, I wanted to be the hero of the stories. The ridiculously unreal superhero that swings in to save everyone through sheer-force-of-will (oh, and superpowers), but then I "settled" for being the best I could be and trying to write the heroes that could inspire more people.
Anytime I get discouraged, I think about the heroes of my life. Yes, they are fictional, and there are some really amazing un-fictional ones out there too, but I'm just talking about being inspired and you don't need reality for that.
So I'll answer the eponymous question:
Why am I writing?
To save the world.
Better question: What will be the way that you try to save the world?
PS Why has the Spider-Man animated series from my childhood not been released in season form yet???
Note: I really don't want to get into an argument about semantics here. When I say, "save", I do not envision myself as a messiah or savior of some sort, it's just a different way of saying, "do my best to better the lives of people, animals and the planet while I'm here. To leave the world better off from my having been born than to worsen it through my existence." Clearly, writing is not the only thing I do in this regard, but it is what inspired me to write in the first place.
...plus, it's just super-awesome and fun to write and create.