History is simply what is recollected by the victors and survivors, or reconstructed from remains. At best it's an approximation, at worst (sometimes mercifully) a fabrication. A story. Fiction. Most people don’t see it that way, but ask a Native American what he thinks of Custer. Or Kit Carson. Or Andrew Jackson.
What most people think of as fiction may be made up, but good fiction is truth. Not the literal fact of scientific discovery, or the congruence between reported events and facts placed in evidence, but alethea, from the Greek an-not and lethe-forgetfulness. The truth of fiction is the same truth found in the teachings of the all world's great religions, in the metaphors of Freud, the plays of Shakespeare, Aesop's fables, and myths worldwide and throughout human existence.
Lethe also means oblivion, and a-lethea in fiction is a kind of immortality for its author. One of the reasons writers write is fear that there's no hererafter. Our work insures our continuance—if only in the Library of Congress, and on the shelves of public libraries and private book collectors. We put our little pleas to be discovered and remembered in paper bottles that we launch in the vast oceans of Amazon, Borders, and Barnes and Noble.
We write to share the stories that obsess us. And to give substance to the voices in our heads—if others can hear them, we are not crazy but creative. We write to amuse ourselves, and to entertain or persuade others. We write to share, to clarify, sometimes to conceal. We write to stave off boredom or loneliness. Often we write to avoid dealing directly with what we perceive our lives to be. Or not to be.
We write to experience vicariously what we cannot otherwise achieve—another sex, or race or talent, a distant time or place. And writers are encouraged to do things non-writers would be arrested for—eavesdropping, impersonating cops, committing murder. Lying to the FBI.
We write to learn, because our brains are hard-wired to receive and store information in story form. We write to teach.
We write for the same reason Adam ate the apple—we cannot resist the temptation to become like God. And writers are like gods—just, loving, or capricious.
We write because we love words. And the power that skill with words gives us.
We write because we must.