Why Do You Write?

The hardest thing about writing isn’t writing. It’s what comes after you finish. And by that, I don’t mean editing, for writing is re-writing, and I probably enjoy going through a manuscript a few times even more than I do the first rough draft. No, what I’m talking about is the feedback, or lack thereof.

An editor’s feedback is one thing. But a bad review, or a book that just (for whatever reason) doesn’t sell, is quite another. Let’s face it: for most of us, rejection hurts, even when we pretend it doesn’t. And rejection is felt most often in the fact that people don’t read your stuff, once it’s published. The average self-published book sells about 200 copies in its first year, which means ever. 200 copies. That’s what you’ll sell. And being the anti-marketeer that I am, I don’t approach anything even near that.

There are people more knowledgeable than me who will tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. But for most writers, ignominy is the end result. You can increase your odds of a successful book launch by listening to people like Tim Grahl, who I’ve found pretty knowledgeable. Yet for a variety of reasons, most writers don’t succeed on the commercial front.

This brings me to the point of this post: I need to write for other reasons. And I need to convince myself that I don’t suck. I mean, who knows, maybe I do suck. But that’s not the only reason why writers fail commercially. Most often, it’s because, as I believe Tim has said, people don’t know we exist. But let’s get back to writing for other reasons, which means writing for the right ones.

Writers write because (1) they have something to say, and (2) they know how to say it. If you have these two elements, then you can start. Some writers also write because they really enjoy the process. That’s me.Whether I have something to say and know how to say it? I’ll leave that up to my fans, which so far have voted ‘no’ on those two issues, because I have no fans.

But letting go of the result remains very hard for me. I can do it while I’m in the act of writing, but once I’ve finished a project, my expectations move in and I expect to (1) be widely read, and (2) make money. Neither have come true for me.

But I do love it. And because I do, I haven’t found a way to renounce the act of writing without drying up inside. It seems to have chosen me. In this way, I believe, most writers are cursed. Because they must write. That’s my case. And so the letdown of either an unpublished work or a published but unsold one is inevitable, for me.

I suppose I could roll up my sleeves and do all the things Tim Grahl says to do, but I don’t believe that I have it in me. And I’m at an age where it’s probably a little late to learn, since most marketing and sales for self-published authors like me take place online, and to be honest, I really don’t understand the internet. I mean, I know how to google something, but I approach my technical limits pretty fast and the tech is always changing. I’d rather spend my time writing, not marketing. I know from my days in acting that if you want to succeed in the creative arts, the marketing (i.e., the self-promotion) never ends. I’ve never been comfortable with promoting myself. And I’m not a writing genius like Cormac McCarthy, so no one’s going to do it for me.

So that leaves me with the work itself. That’s why I do it.