I went to a writer’s workshop a few weeks ago and was asked a question that seems simple enough now but baffled me at the time–why do you write? I heard a great many clever answers that day and found even more affable answers on Twitter. I asked some of my fellow writer friends who seemed almost as stumped as me.
Some said they wrote for the fun of it, the joy it brings them, and even to ease the stories pounding in their heads. Some of their answers were downright poetic! And I swooned at the romanticism with which my friends painted writing. With answers like that, who wouldn’t want to write? With answers like that, writing becomes the lost art it has so often been deemed.
My answer? It is not elaborate nor is it nearly as poetic as that of my friends. I write because…well, I love to read. There’s a quote I used in my blog, Writing the Previously Unwritten, from Toni Morrison, “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I’ve followed that quote with (nearly) reckless abandon ever since my eighth grade english teacher read it to the class aloud. That quote is my “aha” moment, the very reason I do what I do. I write what I would want to read.
That almost sounds arrogant, right? “You write for yourself?” Well, I can understand why you’d see it that way. I know that to be “successful” in this industry, you have to follow the model; there are certain genres and concepts that people want to read about. The infamous self-published-turned-traditional author Amanda Hocking studied the market and wrote a fantasy series that are still best-sellers on Amazon (hence her publishing deal). She was making millions on e-book sales at 27 years old, long before a publisher approached her with a contract. These are the stories each independent author strives to mimic–to become infamous and make their money on writing alone.
But, one day, on my journey to becoming an author of a novel, I realized…I don’t want to be Amanda Hocking. I mean sure, to make that kind of money just writing is every author’s dream. And if I were doing this for the money alone, I’d follow the model like Amanda did. But my dream was to finish a novel and publish it–and I’ve done that. The Grim has been wonderfully well-received, my appearances were more successful than I ever could have imagined, and I sit in my living room and smile every time I glance over at my bookshelf and see The Grim gleaming back at me in this glorious beam of imagined sunlight. I don’t have to sell a million copies; to myself and my family, I’m already a success.
You see, the way I figure it, if I don’t like what I’m writing, why would you? I love The Grim! I fell in love with the story long before I set fingers to keys to write it. And that’s how I feel about most everything I write, even my prose and blog. If I’m bored writing it, that boredom will eventually show through in the manuscript, making for a crappy read. And I wouldn’t want to read crap. So I’m not going to give my readers crap. I could write a fantasy series or a romance/erotica novel just to meet the demand and put some money in my pocket. But if it’s not what I want to write, I will inevitably become BORED with the very thing I love. Instead, I write the stories I want to read, even if they don’t happen to suit the popular genres. And if I write it well enough that I would want to read it myself, then there’s a pretty good chance you’ll want to read it, too.
And that, in a nutshell, is why I write.