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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why Do You Write?

It's the perennial question.

Someone mobs you after class and demands to know why you can't go to a party during November.... "Um, well, I've joined this cult and November is sacred. Um, yeah..." as you stuff your latest notes on your NaNo novel behind your back and try to look innocent.

Your dear mothers calls and asks why you can't have a normal hobby, a couple kids, a rich husband all ready.... "Gosh, Mom, I'm just trying to be independent. I've always wanted to write like Ayn Rand you know." And get paid like JKR, but you'd settle for Stephen King I'm sure.

Your spouse ask you how your day went and begs you to tell them something real, not about a scene in your latest WIP.... "Ahhhh. Right. Reality? Er..... Do I have a life?"

Another rejection letter shows up, form letter, not right for us... "Why am I doing this to myself???"


Why are you?

Do you want fame? Glory? Wealth? The pleasure of seeing your name in print? A couple of ARCs to shove into the face of doubters?

I hope not. To get fame in writing you usually have to be dead, which is a bit pricey in my way of thinking when you can be famous in California for so many other things. There is rarely glory in writing, and if there is I'd be suspicious. The number of writers who live off their writing can be counted without hitting double-digits (possibly... I can't name many). If you wanted your name in print you would have gone into newspaper writing so you had a byline every day. And, if you crunch the numbers, the chances of ever holding an ARC of your work is impossibly slim.

Look over at Kristin Nelson's statistics, she's about average for an agent I'm guessing. Maybe she has a little more business because she has a web presence and author's get to know her through her blog, but.... Last year she read 35,000 queries. Of those, 88 turned into requests for fulls.

That's 0.25% of all authors getting a request for a full.

Of that 0.25%, two authors were signed. Think of it, 2% of 0.25%.

You aren't writing to get published.

None of us are.

Publishing is a nice bonus. But it isn't promised to anyone. There are literally thousands of agents out there. If you can write a half-way decent book, you probably will get published. Eventually. But that cold comfort isn't going to push you to write after the first 100 rejections. Or after you hit a major stumbling block in chapter 7. Or after you tell a friend about your plot and they tell you to get counseling.

Be honest, what really makes you write?

Last night, around 11:30 pm, after a bruising day that left me wanting to curl into a fetal position and sob, I realized I hadn't written yet. For the past year and a half I've written six days of every seven. I opened my current WIP, stared at the screen, and forced myself to write.

Over an hour later I emerged from this fictional place to find a new chapter smiling at me and new ideas jumping like spring lambs in the meadow.

I started writing because it was a habit.

I kept writing because it was an escape.

I liked the writing because I have a cast of wonderful characters that I love even after almost 50k with them.

That's why I write. I write for me. If I never get published. If I send one thousand and ten query letters and still never see my name on the spine of a book. If everyone else stares at me like I'm crazy when I tell them about what I do in the evenings... It doesn't matter. I write for me. I write because the stories are part of who I am.

What I write may never change the world. It may never leave the hallowed gigabytes of my computer's memory. But I'm still having fun. I still wake up looking forward to unveiling that next chapter, rough and choppy though it may be.

Now, why do you write?


  1. I write for similar reasons. I like my stories. I believe they should be told.

    Books have given me so much comfort in life, I want to at least try and give the same to others. Some of my wips, well I want to show that my religion isn't as bad as it can be made out to be. Sure, there are nutters, but which society doesn't have them?

    I'll never give up persuing publication. Ever. I won't quit writing. I can't. I'm miserable when I can't write (like today). Muse keeps flinging ideas at me. I believe this is a gift I've been given, and its up to me to put it to good use. Even if the only people who read the wips are me and those on CC.

  2. Ah, the ultimate questions: Why do we subject ourselves to this TORTURE!?

    Well, same reason as you. Because it makes me happy. Whether or not I get published. Ever. I will ALWAYS write.

    I'll always try and get published, though. It's the whole reason I went to school. Not something I'm going to give up on, you know?

  3. I write for the excitement. I'm probably not going to solve any murders in my life (hopefully) but it's exciting when my MC gets to do it. That's why I write novels.

    But I blog and journal because if I didn't my head would explode from all the thoughts crammed in there. I'm not saying they're particularly deep or original thoughts, but they have to come out all the same ;)

    Of course I want to be published, too. I'd love to write books that matter to someone as much as my favorite books matter to me.

    Loved this post!

  4. Ah, the age-old question... why?

    (This always reminds me of Inky's TBAEO novel, when the wizard says, "Because it's funny.")

    I like to entertain. Be it myself or the people who wish to read my stories, that's why--I love to write something that I (and hopefully others) would find fun to read. Granted, I can't say it always turns out the way I'd hoped :P but usually I keep myself entertained...

    Plus, I get to do whatever the heck I want! It's not like you can go about destroying solar systems on a daily basis in real life without a few people protesting. ;)

    Writing allows me to push personal boundaries and learn; it lets me vent frustration in safe ways (except maybe towards characters, who are never safe); it keeps me entertained and occupied and I enjoy it.

    There are slumps and periods of Isucktis, etc, and getting out of them is not always quick or easy, but in the end, I still enjoy what I do. I get very real satisfaction blowing things up--it's soothing. B-)

    As for publication, it may be a slim chance, but just think: there still IS a small percentage of people that get their books published. I see nothing wrong with aiming to be in that percentage.

    Even if I don't make it though, I will keep writing, keep trying. You lose every chance at your dream if you give up on it.


    P.S. Whoa. My brain actually tried to say something serious and half-way meaningful--I suspect the zombies are playing a practical joke on me...

  5. I want others to find the escape in my words as I found escape and comfort in books throughout my life. But even without readers, I need to write. I love it. I love the characters, and need to tell their story. The plotting and world building is so exciting. And nothing beats the feeling after a good session of writing, or reading something good thinking "I wrote that." It's a validation. That I'm working toward my dreams, and have something to share.

  6. I'm adding to my entry (albeit further down the page).

    Merc made me realise something. Yes, we get to do a lot of things in writing we ordinarily can't do in RL. Those that know me, well they'll appreciate how much more I enjoy writing because creating my characters means at least part of me can be 'normal'. Not that having lots of animals in me is normal... :) It's nice though, when RL comes with strings attached to be free in wips.

  7. Because it's an addictive escape.

    Have you noticed how many writers' families say that we are in our own world. Especially if we are writing and on CC at the same time. What the fire is burning down? Ah no it can't be, Abi just got on her horse, you'll have to reschedule sorry.

  8. Hmm, must do a post on this.

    I write for me, too. I write because, to me, my stories mean something. In a weird, twisted kind of way, they expand my thinking, open my mind, and force me to challenge all my beliefs and perceptions. Writing isn't a comfortable task - at least, not if you do it well.

    And you know what?

    I think I like that.