Recently I posted blogs about why one should choose to self-publish – followed by blogs supporting or at least describing the contrary position.
But before one even gets to that stage, you need to ask yourself: why am I even writing?
Case in point: the reason I am writing this particular blog is simple. It’s explained in the very first of ten reasons most writers decide to write, despite their better survival instincts and the well-meaning advice of others.
This is coming from a writer whose very first piece of advice to any aspiring author is “quit now.” If you persist, then you are suffering from Reason Number Ten.
But that’s for my next blog. Here are the first five:
Yup, I admit it. I write this blog in exchange for cash. Not a ton, but enough to warrant the effort. In turn I try to make every single word worth every single penny, in order to justify the gig from all angles, especially yours and my employer's. Otherwise I am busy churning out my pulp fiction, which doesn’t earn much money (see Reason Number Three), or other freelance work that actually pays, like public relations communications (Facebook administration, newsletters, etc.) for various small businesses. If your sole motivation for writing is making money, or to earn a decent living, you are probably setting yourself up for serious disappointment. Then again, if commerce is truly is your only goal, then you are likewise positioning yourself to be successful by removing all other distractions and obstacles from the table – like your own sense of artistic fulfillment (see Reason Four). Your call, of course. This isn’t an impossible task, just a difficult one.
If just seeing your byline in print, either electronically or the old-fashioned way, boosts your sense of self-esteem, there is nothing wrong with that, and it’s never been easier to accomplish, so go for it. Nowadays everyone with a computer and Internet access can create a unique platform for self expression via social media, and thanks to DIY digital publishing, just about anyone can become an established author with their own fan base, extending far beyond random, ubiquitous status updates about one’s lunch or pets.
If you promote your work enough, at least a few people scattered around the world will eventually become aware of you co-existence on this plane. That probably won’t translate into any substantial amount of income, since odds are many more people will know of your work than actually buy and read it, but hey, you can increase the likelihood by expanding both consciousness and commerce via relentless tweets and posts, even though eventually those may backfire by alienating potential customers. It’s a delicate tightrope that one can only learn to walk by practice. Be prepared to fall a few times, at least – in front of a lot of people, too, some of whom might not react very kindly to your very public failures. Fame is a two-headed beast. Be careful what you wish for.
Whether you’re a writer that writes for a living, or a writer that just writes as a reaction to life, you are probably doing it because you simply love the act of writing. I often hear from other writers how hard the process is for them, though I must admit, I never find it to be difficult. It’s my natural form of communication. But even writers that are daunted by the tedious process feel rewarded by the simple pleasure of transcribing their thoughts and ideas to a medium that can be shared with and by others. It validates our existence. Even if the love is unrequited.
This is an extension of Reason Three, the distinction being not every type of literature is “artistic.” Many writers enjoy technical writing (which is the best example of Reason Number One, since it’s the most lucrative short of a bestseller), or writing about non-fiction topics like history and science. But producing fiction that comes from our imaginations, perhaps mixed with personal experiences, then shared with an audience of strangers on a public platform – for profit or not – fulfills a very basic need for many us to emancipate concepts that would otherwise be trapped inside of us, useless to us as well as others.
This leads to Reason Number Five, which can get pretty tricky…
Oftentimes one writes just to sublimate complicated feelings or make sense of personal experiences that require artistic deconstruction, to help process and ultimately accept them. Just getting these things off one’s chest and down on paper (or in a Word doc) can be worth the effort. The challenge comes when you decide to go public with stuff that might be better off locked away in a private diary. If you can find a way to make this type of work palatable for an audience of total strangers that might benefit from shared, similar traumas (or triumphs), then you can turn your personal pain or pleasure into something that is profitable, or at least helpful to others. Nothing is more of a turn-off than gratuitous self-indulgence, especially if you’re asking people to pay for the privilege.
See you next time with the final five. That’s a reason to keep reading, anyway…