I spend a lot of time on this blog warning new and up-and-coming writers about all the things that writing isn’t. I’ve told you that you probably won’t get rich and famous, you might not even make enough money to pay one bill, let alone all the bills. I’ve told you that you’re far more likely to get rejected than accepted. I’ve told you that even with multiple books published, you still have to do a lot of jumping up and down and waving your arms to get noticed. I’ve told you how hard, and frustrating, and depressing it can be.
And all those things are true, but perhaps I’ve been a bit of a Negative Nancy, too. If writing is so AWFUL, why on earth do so many of us continue to do it? It can’t be all bad, right? No, it’s not.
I remember when I was pregnant with my son. As I got bigger and bigger and it drew closer to time for his arrival, I became more and more anxious and terrified about what it would be like to have him. One hears so many birth horror stories, and it’s hard not to focus on the bad things when you’re scared. My female relatives were morbidly happy to tell me throughout my pregnancy the awful things they’d experienced during labor. It started to feel like a sense of impending doom, something dreadful looming on the horizon that I couldn’t escape.
Then, at a family gathering, I sat beside my grandmother–well, she was only sorta my grandmother, as my family tree is quite tangled–and this was a woman who had four children of her own. I don’t even remember how the subject came up, but she took my hand and said, “Listen, if childbirth was really that bad, no woman would ever have a second child, now would they? Let alone more than that!”
This was the most comforting thing I could hear at the time, and it calmed my nerves considerably.
If writing was so bad, no one would continue to do it. These are the good things about writing:
- It gives me a sense of purpose. Writing has been my ‘calling’ for as long as I can remember. It gives me direction and focus, even when life is rough or difficult. When I write, I feel the most like myself. I feel like I’m not wasting time or should be doing something else. Writing gives me peace, and happiness, and calm, and it doesn’t matter if it gets published or not, because that feeling will still be there when I write. Writing makes all the negative stuff in my brain shut off.
- It’s something all my own. No one can take writing away from me. Being a writer is such an integral part of my personality that you couldn’t remove it and still have the same person. But that’s the good part–no one can remove it. Yes, I know there’s lots of horrific accidents that could physically prevent me from writing again, but let’s pray those things stay in the realm of the improbable.
- It gives others happiness. We don’t just write stories for ourselves–we write them to share with others, and to evoke an emotional response in them. Humans need stories. They need a distraction from reality. We writers are the people who get the privilege of providing that, even if it’s only to a few. Every story you write is a gift to others, as well as to yourself.
- Community. Writers are solitary creatures, as the act of writing is a pretty lonely one. We sit by ourselves over our keyboards for hours, typing out our hallucinations. But when the writing stops, we like to connect with each other. Writers like to share their joys and sorrows, their triumphs and defeats. There’s nothing like talking to another writer and nodding in agreement as you commiserate. There’s lots of places to talk to other writers, from blogs and online communities, to offline writer’s groups and conferences. We’re all an anxious, fragile, but brave bunch.
- The joy of holding my own work in my hands, even if no one else reads it. Here’s something very important to remember: it doesn’t matter how many people hold a copy of your book, as long as you get to. Whether it’s a hardcover/paperback or just a Kindle screen, there’s something powerful and satisfying about seeing the physical manifestation of your hard work. And it doesn’t matter who else reads it because you DID it, and it exists forever now.
There’s a lot of joy in writing. Don’t be frightened when you see more seasoned writers griping about the pain and pitfalls, because we’re just venting. We wouldn’t keep doing this if we didn’t get some real reward from it. What’s your writing joy?