Why Write?

A fellow Second Wind author posted a bloggery today about Keeping the Faith as a writer despite lackluster sales. It’s a concern so many of us published writers have. The percentage of novelists who actually make a living at writing is ridiculously small, and to make matters worse, the top one percent of writers make more than all the rest of us combined.

When you consider how few writers ever make enough to quit their day job, (and this includes some writers who hit the bestselling list), the word “success” when it comes to writing needs to be redefined. Seems to me if writing brings you pleasure that makes you success. So does having your book chosen from thousands of submissions to be published. So does your willingness to write another book despite dismal sales figures. This puts you in a rarified group. Sure it would be nice to make money, but if we were really in it for the money, we wouldn’t be writers. We’d be lawyers or accountants or even sales clerks.

There are good things about writing not being a paying job: we don’t need to write to deadlines, don’t need to worry about wordcount, don’t need to fulfill anyone’s expectations except our own. And that is reason enough to write.

Someone once said that the best thing a writer can do when they’ve finished writing a book is to write another. I thought that was silly advice because if you can’t sell one book (or three), what’s the point of writing more? I now know the point is writing. A writer does not attain maturity as a writer until he or she has written 1,000,000 words. (I’m only halfway there.) So write. Your next book might be the one that captures people’s imaginations and catapults you into fame and fortune. Not writing another book guarantees you will never will reach that goal. It also keeps you from doing what you were meant to do.

One thing I know for a fact: sales do not make a writer a writer.  Of course, sales are nice, but in the end, writing is what makes a writer a writer.

So, let’s all keep the faith. And write.

9 Responses to “Why Write?”

  1. sonia Says:

    Very inspiring post! Personally, I define success as being published. In magazines, if not with a publisher. I would like to also make a living at it, but that would just be icing on the cake.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It seems that success with writing comes in stages. The first success is actually writing something worth reading. The second is finding a publisher. The third is making money. Best of luck with your writing! I hope you find the success you wish.

  2. Yosis Says:

    Hello, Pat.
    As a lifelong reader and lover of books, I used to fantasize about being a writer. I pictured myself in a romantic little mountain-side cabin, fireplace glowing, a cup of tea on my desk…staring out the window as I pondered the perfect words that would capture hearts and captivate readers. In the one creative writing class I took in college, the professor said simply, “to be a writer, you must write.” It seemed silly at the time, but not much later, I realized I was in love with my fantasy of being a writer, and I rarely, if ever, spent any time writing. Grateful to you folks out there who DO write!! May the New Year bring you continued inspiration…because without you, I couldn’t be a lifelong reader and lover of books.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      And who wouldn’t be in love with such a marvelous fantasy!! I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t have a fantasy about it. I’m not sure what I wanted, maybe simply to be able to write a great book.

  3. Carol Ann Hoel Says:

    The more I read about writers not making money, the more I excuse myself for writing at my own pace. I enjoy being a caregiver just as much as writing a book. Anyway, he (my hubby, my patient) comes first. He deserves it, and, besides, I have a cushy job. I love it.

    I hope your books sell like hotcakes and make you lots of money. If I ever publish mine, I hope it does the same thing. Ha! Blessings to you, Pat…

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you for mentioning pace!! That is part of the joy of not being under deadline. It gives you freedom from worry — I worry a lot about not writing enough (though I do write — blogging is still writing!!). I like writing, but I don’t like having to write.

  4. Toni Leland Says:

    Pat, well spoken! I do wonder, though, if you aimed this piece mostly at creative writers. Those of us who also freelance DO have to watch deadlines and word count; but even at that, the need to write is so strong that those inconveniences don’t matter.
    Great post. Thanks!

  5. Carol J. Garvin Says:

    I loved Yosis’ admission, “I realized I was in love with my fantasy of being a writer, and I rarely, if ever, spent any time writing.” I think that’s an all-too-common situation. Reality is that a writer’s life is all about the writing. Publication and money are bonuses. If my novels never end up published I’ll still be writing because the process of doing so is as much a part of my daily life as breathing, sleeping and eating. I think my definition of success is what you mentioned: writing a great book, something worth reading. Well said!

  6. Brian Linville Says:

    No one starts out a great writer. Everyone has to write crap first. The only way to get to the good stuff is to keep plugging away.

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