Writing: Why Bother?

Ask yourself this question and, please, answer honestly: Why do I want to write?

If your answer consists mainly of ideas like “Because I want to be rich and famous,” “Because I don’t want to work a nine to five desk job,” or “Because I want an all expenses paid, worldwide book tour,” you may need a reality check.

I’m not saying that you can’t get these things with a career in writing or that having these kinds of dreams is a bad thing, but the life of the average writer is not a glamorous one. Though many writers are able to support their families on their work, you don’t see many driving Porsches. Most writers work seven days a week, at all hours of the day, and guess where they do it—their desk. Many writers never go on tour, let alone one that someone else is paying for. Reasonable expectations and having something besides fame and fortune driving you is important if you’re going to make it through the gauntlet of the publishing world. For example, did you know that, to be a writer, you actually have to write a book? Shocking, I know, but true. Unless you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, agents and publishers will not take you seriously until you can show them a finished product.

“But,” you may protest, “my idea is brilliant and original! Why won’t you give me a contract?”

For a very good reason, I’m afraid. Did you know that a large portion of the population is working on a book? Did you know that most of them will never finish it? Publishers and agents know this, and they’re not going to take the financial risk on someone who hasn’t proven they can follow through. Even after you finish your fantastic masterpiece, there is no guarantee that someone else will recognize your brilliance. The book world, like most creative industries, is entirely subjective. No matter how original and wonderful you are, there are going to be a lot of people who don’t like what you write. Finding the one person who will guide you through the tribulations of publication is not only daunting, it’s damn difficult.

What will happen to your self-confidence when you get your first rejection letter? Your tenth? Your hundredth? Is your book worth the pain of form letters and (sometimes) incredibly harsh denials? Will you continue to rewrite and work on, cry over and bleed for your manuscript? Will you force yourself to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard even though you get no encouragement from those “in the biz”?

To make it worth your while, the rewards you get have to deeper than money. You need pleasure. Joy at seeing the people in your head come to life on a page. Rapture when everything in a scene just clicks. Ecstasy when you finally finish that dreaded first draft. Writing needs to be more than a job; it must become your life. It has to be something you would do even if no one ever paid you for it. If you have that, no one will ever be able to make you wonder why you’re bothering at all.

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