Back when I started this whole writing thing in my teens, I just couldn’t wait to be rich and famous. I knew someday I’d be an international bestseller, penning books from the deck of my luxury yacht or my special writing room in my mansion with a glorious cliffside view of the ocean. Everyone would know my name! Celebrities would want to hang out with me! All I had to do was write a book so beloved by millions that they would literally mail me their paychecks, begging me to write the sequel.
Well, here I am about twenty-five years later, and…I have my own place, anyway? I also have Netflix and a cat, so I guess that’s pretty good overall, right? Granted, my day job pays for all those things, but hey, with my last royalty check I bought some groceries! I mean, not like a whole WEEK’S worth of groceries, let’s not get crazy here, but I picked up some pretty tasty ice cream.
You probably know by now that most writers are not, and never will be, magnificently rich and famous. Even making enough to sustain a living is far-fetched. Making decent money off writing depends on a lot of different factors, including your productivity levels–how many books you can produce, because it’s your backlist that makes you money–trends, your publisher, your readership, publicity, luck, and just a smidge of black magic. To have a bestseller you probably need all that but a more advanced level of black magic, but I couldn’t tell you.
So why are we still doing this? If not for money, fame, recognition, or even the light bill, why do it?
For the love of the writing itself, of course.
If you’re feeling like you’ll never make it, and you’re just more than a tad frustrated, and you’re thinking about throwing in the towel, maybe I can give you some inspiration to keep going. Here are the reasons–the real, attainable reasons–that I write.
- Because I like telling stories. I don’t know if I was born with this urge or it came from something in my life, but I just like telling a story. I like putting together the elements that make up a story. I like snapping together all the pieces and making something whole. There’s a real satisfaction and delight in it. It’s like making something that’s broken work again, or organizing everything just so. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and victory.
- Because I’m good at telling stories. I’ve been doing this for a long time and so now I’m very good–or at least skilled–at putting all the technical aspects of writing into motion. I know how to construct a plot and characters, I know how to work toward a conclusion, build theme, and shape tone. I like playing with language, and I like using imagery and subtext to create a message. I like the arty side of writing, but I also like the technical side of it. I learn more and more as I continue, and it’s always fascinating.
- Because some of the stories I want to read haven’t been written. Some stories just don’t exist, but I would like them to, and when I realize I have the power to make that happen, it’s both thrilling and humbling at the same time. Just think about it. If I want a story in the world, I can create it! Me! I can do that! That’s amazing.
- Because when I write, my head shuts up. Only when I’m writing does the rest of the world fade away. Everything else on my mind gets shoved aside for a time and I feel calm. Writing helps me focus. Writing helps me forget. Writing gives me a chance to breathe and it’s incredibly cathartic. All the noise quiets down when I get to the page.
- Because storytelling is important. From books to TV shows to movies, to comic books, to plays, to songs–the world wants and needs stories. We need an escape, we need something to distract us, to make us feel, laugh, cry, smile, remember, and dance. The world is often harsh and bleak and terrifying, but having stories helps us cope with all that. And though I may not be famous, and I might never be, if only a few people read my stories, at least I’m still doing my part to help humans get some enjoyment out of life. If I can’t fix things, I can at least help soothe.
What are your reasons for writing? Your real reasons? At the end of the day, what is it that keeps you coming back, even when you get very little out of it?