Why do I write?
I have asked myself this question a lot in the past twelve months. There have been numerous times where the craft of writing has been almost squashed by drives that were off-target and wrong.
Writing has been a passion for me since I can remember. I had a very inspirational freshman English teacher who motivated me to write and seek publication. My first poem was published in 1991 in a small kids’ magazine. And in the subsequent years, I kept writing, keeping his words of wisdom in mind:
1) Expect rejection
2) Don’t quite your day job
3) You will write a million words before anyone notices you. And they still probably won’t
4) Do not give up.
5) Keep writing
Those are still sound words of advice. However, the world changed in a hurry with the advent of self-publishing and the decline of the major publishers. A few people had unbelievable success, and a million writers tried to follow that path. Sadly, I was one of them. Thinking that my work had value, and would appeal to readers, I threw my hat (and a lot of $$$ for editors, graphics, advertising, etc) into the fray. And, apart from a rising credit card bill, I did learn a few good lessons from this:
1) Anybody can publish whatever they want, whenever
2) The gatekeepers have changed. They are now book review bloggers (I tried my hand at that, too), and Amazon's ranking algorithms
3) All five-star reviews are fakes, one-star reviews are from other authors trying to sabotage you
4) Market, market, market.
5) Keep writing
Of course, my “lessons” are a little tongue-in-cheek, but one gets the idea. We’ve gone from an ideology of creative work, and little monetary reward (but great personal satisfaction), to a very cut-throat world. Sometimes I find myself looking at successful authors with disdain and jealousy, instead of seeing them peers in the art. This is art, isn’t it?
I was frustrated, low, depressed, and almost ready to give up. And then a reader of one of my books (a book I had not even mentioned in any medium) left an honest, review. Yes it was five stars. But I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t expect it, since I’d not done any marketing at all. I read the review shortly after I finished A Memory of Light, and suddenly my entire perspective shifted back to 1991.
KEEP WRITING! I don’t do this for fame or fortune. I never have. Why would I try to fall into that rut? Sure, we’d all love to quit our day jobs and write all the time, do book tours, etc. But is that really the ideal? My time is compressed, which lets me focus on a given task and give it the attention it deserves. If I had all day to just write, I’d wind up watching Days of Our Lives and eating Oreos.
So... why do I write?
It’s FUN. I have so many stories swirling in my demented mind, and they all want out! So I put them to screen and paper, and hope for the best. If you're not having fun doing something, stop it. I can't possibly make millions if I don't market the crap out of my stuff, but I don't care. I just want to tell stories.
If only one person, ONE reader likes what I have written, I have succeeded.