Monday, March 28, 2011
DREADED AUTHOR QUESTION: WHY DO YOU DO IT? WHY BOTHER WRITING?
by Isabo Kelly
Writing is tough work on many levels. Even on the days when the writing flows, getting the story in your head down on paper is a trying process. On a bad writing day, each word is like pulling teeth. Pleasure reading gets more difficult, even though it’s one of our favorite pastimes. The business end of the process can be overwhelming, full of rejection, criticism and uncertainty. And once you conquer the hurtle of getting published, making sure your book reaches readers involves a whole new skill set, marketing and business skills which may or may not be part of an author’s repertoire.
In addition to the fact that writing itself is frequently difficult and the business is brutal, there’s no guarantee of success and no promise that you’ll ever make a living at your chosen career. Publishing can be very precarious, even if your books sell well. Publishing houses close, editors move, imprints reorganize, trends in genres fluctuate. Good years and bad years are only to be expected.
The heartbreak, the rejection, the insults to your story, the lack of financial guarantees, the money that goes into promoting your books once they get published… It’s a valid thing to ask a writer: Why do we do this?
Most writers I know give the same response I always give: I do it because I have to. I don’t have a lot of choice. Like it or not, I have stories in my head that insist I put them down somewhere. And once those stories are committed to the page, it’s almost impossible not to want to share the stories with readers. Writing is the only job I’ve ever had that I haven’t gotten bored with after a few years. It’s a constant challenge that is so much a part of me, even when I quit (which sometimes I do because it feels good to say “I quit”), I still go right back to writing an hour later.
The fact is, even if most of us were never published again, or never made it to publication in the first place, we’d still have to write. We just would.
And that’s not something non-artists really get. I hate to compare writing to an addiction or compulsion, but in so many ways it is. Once you start, even a twelve step plan would have a hard time breaking through a writer’s need to put story to page.
If your reasons for writing are other than need, if you’re looking for fame, wealth, accolades, well…I wish you the best of luck. Really I do. But with those motivators, this will be a very difficult road, and all the rejection and hard work will be hard to justify. There are easier ways to earn fame and wealth—get yourself onto a reality show! You’ll at least achieve some notoriety.
But if you have no other choice than to write, write. And be proud of your compulsion. After all, when the days are good, when the writing flows, the reviews are glowing, and the letters from editors and agents come back asking for more, there’s not much better in the world than the life of a writer.♥