This question has been on my mind the past few months, and as I spend time studying the craft and searching for agents/publishers, I can’t help but try and answer the underlying question, why do I even bother?
My motives have changed since I was in high school trying to find my place in this world. I used to want to be a published author so I could find my name in bookstores among those names that I admire. I didn’t really care about writing the next bestseller (although that would be awesome), but I just wanted to be a little bit famous, if even among a small niche. I just wanted my name to be published.
And as I got older, I thought, wouldn’t that be the perfect job? To get paid to do what you love? Of course it would. Unfortunately, very few authors actually get paid enough to make a living off their books. And honestly, writing solely to get paid makes it more of a chore than a passion.
When I actually began writing my stories and studying the market, I learned that those aren’t good reasons to write at all. There is so much more to writing a good story than fame and money. It’s an adventure, an escape to an alternate world where you get to call the shots… most of the time. (Sometimes the characters are just too stubborn to let you win.) But even though you’re the one calling the shots, and perhaps you already know the ending, it’s still an exciting ride discovering how you’re going to get from point A to point B. There are unique characters you’ll meet along the way, and deep lessons you’ll learn.
So I guess I could say I’ve learned that writing is a reward in itself. Who needs a big name? Who needs book signings? Who needs that large check?
But there was still something missing, because just the thought of never having anyone else read these stories discouraged me.
I remember reading/listening to interviews from other authors. Authors that I loved and respected. When asked what the most rewarding part of writing was to them, pretty much all of them had the same answer. “The most rewarding part of writing is hearing from my readers, and knowing they connected with my story.” I used to roll my eyes and mumble, “sunday school answer.” I mean, who would say the most rewarding part was the money or fame? Of course they would say it was the readers.
But now that I’ve completed my own trilogy and had my own group of readers enjoy my stories and give me feedback, I have to say I agree with those authors. Just having readers connect with my characters is a huge reward in itself.
So back to the question: Why do I write ? Because I want to connect with other people through my stories. I want to know that somehow, in some way, I’m making a difference in the world, though it may be a small difference, and that is enough for me.
Brandi Carlile has a song called The Story. There’s a line in the song that struck a chord with me, because it verifies exactly how I feel.
“These stories don’t mean anything when you’ve got no one to tell them to.”
How true. If I had no one else to share my stories with, why bother writing them? I could more easily visualize the story in my head and not trouble myself with details and the art and craft of writing.
But we as people long to connect with others. We like to tell stories. We like to hear stories. We like to read stories. We like to swap stories.
That’s why I write.