I had an interesting experience last week: I received absolute proof that I am officially a has-been in the writing world. So, rather than wallow in self-pity (actually, rather than wallow in self-pity for more than a few hours), I thought I’d take this time to discuss that constant question that writers must ask themselves – why am I writing, anyway?
Proof that the writing world is so over me came when I sent a request to be included as an author participant at a local convention, and I was turned down. This has never happened before. I’m on friendly terms with the programming coordinator, and I probably assumed, naively, that friendliness would override the needs of the convention. This is a large convention with a focus on popular personalities, and there’s a very high demand for the few available author participant slots. Maybe I would have qualified when my first book was just out and had potential for strong sales, but I sure don’t qualify now. Career-wise, I’ve pretty much tanked. So why keep writing?
This is sort of a misleading question, though. Our fixation on the monetary aspects of a writing career is partly a result of all those articles that focus Amazon millionaires and other sales data, not to mention our social standards that call lucrative work “real work” and all other work either a hobby to be confined to weekends or a complete waste of time that should be abandoned altogether. One major author only defines professional writers as those whose writing is their sole source of income, something that is getting rarer minute by minute. I’ve already voiced my objection to that kind of labeling. Funny that I have to keep reminding myself of what I said, though, isn’t it?
One recent article about book sales (with the sure-to-strike-down-those-caviar-dreams headline “Most Authors Make Less Than $1,000 a Year“) lays out in nice multi-color graphs how unlikely most authors are to be a commercial success. And yet these folks keep writing. Are they all misled fools who think that, beyond all statistical probability, they’ll someday find themselves in that narrow $10,000+ category? Yes, humans have a remarkable capacity for self-delusion, but I don’t think that’s really it. People write because they have reasons to write.
There are as many “Why I write” posts on the internet as there are “Most Authors Make…” posts, probably more. Most of them are along the lines of this. Note that “To make money” isn’t on the list.
This has been a remarkably long way to answer the question of why I’m writing, and I admit that I haven’t really answered it. I thought all week about how to answer it and didn’t come up with anything other than a goofy post I made the morning after I got the email from the programming coordinator at that convention:
I write because my brain won’t let me stop. I write for the reason other people game or solve puzzles, and the only kind of game or puzzle my brain likes is the one that throws characters into situations and figures out how all the pieces fall. I write because I get an idea and I want to follow it to the end. I write because I’m never satisfied with the last story. I write because, despite how wound up I sometimes get over my status in the world of writing, at some fundamental level I really don’t give a damn about status. I write because I’m a writer.
What are the reasons you write?