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by Will Viharo
It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and the commercialization of that most elusive of emotions – love – is in full swing.
For many, sad to say, their personal failure at romance is rudely illuminated during this “holiday” season. Others are too cynical to admit that there is even such a thing as “true love,” having been burned once too often, now willfully “free.”
For writers, though, the love of their craft knows now such limits, unbound to any particular designation, even if it often feels unrequited…
Recently, Amazon issued a formal statement claiming that only 40 self-published authors are deemed a “success,” at least per mainstream metrics. They’re judging strictly by book sales, and to them, and perhaps the general public, “success” means selling more than a million eBooks over the past five years.
Of course, their standard might be a little high, i.e. unrealistic, especially considering there are probably a lot more writers than readers out there these days.
Let’s face it: you’re probably never going to get rich or even become financially solvent writing either fiction or non-fiction, whether you’re self or traditionally published. This has always been the case, but perhaps never truer than it is in our contemporary culture.
The benefits of living in a digital era are that pretty much anyone can publish andpromote their own artistic output, in any medium.
The downside is unless that work is visually or aurally compatible with the sound-and-image dominated consumer consciousness currently shopping the online marketplace, it’s going to be a tough sell. Reading requires a certain amount of mental energy that many people simply don't have to spare, since their intellect is already being bombarded with so much information from so many online sources, almost constantly. Plus it’s increasingly hard, if not impossible, to distinguish yourself from so many writers competing for a shrinking literary-minded audience.
So should you just quit?
That’s up to you, but ultimately, most writers write – even financially successful ones - write as a matter of compulsion, if not self-therapy. It’s how they best express themselves. And self-expression is a very human, and common, motivation for many if not most forms of independent media.
Write What You Know: Yourself
“Write what you know” has been common advice from one writer to another seemingly forever. I happen to agree with it, even though a little research and formal education can inform your writing as much as raw life experience. It’s always good to keep an open mind – and heart.
Whatever subject you choose for your novel or essay or whatever, it should be something close to your own heart. Readers know when a writer is faking enthusiasm just to make a buck. People respond to sincerity. Also, if you truly know and love your genre or topic of choice, your work will naturally resonate with fellow fans.
Follow That Dream
Following your passion as a person can’t be underestimated as far as your quality of life and self-esteem are concerned. It’s easy for someone who is making money via their craft to claim the rewards are spiritual, not monetary, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
I’ve been writing all my life, with very little to show for it other than a body of work I’m very proud of. I still have to stitch together a meager living via various types of odds jobs, from blogging to dog walking to freelance PR work. But that’s the situation for most writers.
When I decide I want to write a story or book, it’s not because of any financial incentive (unless it's a commissioned piece), that’s for sure. For me, it’s because I have something inside of me that needs to be expressed creatively, a commentary on my life at that moment to be shared with the world at large, in hopes total stranger can relate to it somehow, on some level (and perhaps even pay for the privilege!). Then once it’s published, it’s preserved for posterity. Well, as long as it stays in print (and you can take control of that aspect of your career, too).
Is It Really “Better To Love and Lose, Than Never Love At All”?
Again, that’s a loaded question that can only be answered subjectively. But in any case, your work is a product of your love of life itself, even if it’s just a proactive reaction to circumstances beyond your control, emotionally, psychologically, or materially speaking.
If you don’t actually love writing, and you’re not paying any bills with it, why even keep doing it? Since love is free, that is literally the most cost effective reason I can think of. Works for me, anyway.
Love yourself, love your work, love your audience – because that could be anybody.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
PHOTO: WILL VIHARO
New Orleans, LA