WHY DO WE CONTINUE TO WRITE
WHEN LOGIC SAYS TAKE UP MACRAME’?
I can quit writing anytime. I know that, because I quit every day about the same time. At least my fingers cease to hover over the keyboard and I stop arguing with the curser flashing as if to say, “Well? Is that all you have to say, really?” I know that sounds like an addict explaining his habit, but that’s because there are a lot of us who are addicted to writing and to its flip side, reading. [Contrary to some beginners’ beliefs, you can’t do one without the other. The idea that reading others’ works will somehow taint or influence their own “style” is nonsense. I have often thought—if only!]
A friend gave me a plaque that says, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” That pretty much says it all. I look about my home, and I realize that I have given “soul” to every room, even the tiny alcove. Books are everywhere, in places lovingly alphabetized and in other places haphazardly stacked, some read and reread and others waiting to be read. It was the love of books and the escape from shyness that hooked me on reading as a child, and in some cases rereading a familiar old friend. It was acknowledging how the stories made me feel that gave me the need to give some of that back. I have been blessed with an abundance of words—average ones like hurdle and yell and exotic ones like serendipity and Izztacihuatl. Yes, I said NEED. I need to write as I need to breathe. I need to take the chaos that is life and turn it upside down and inside out and figure out myself and others.
There are those who are under the illusion that authors are wealthy, and some few are. The old one-percent theory holds true here, too. Perhaps ten percent that pursue writing as a career support themselves. Most supplement the royalties with side jobs, and if they are lucky these are jobs that relate to writing. The need to write and to share it with others drives those who stick with it day after day, year after year when we understand that the odds are against us. We must go through a maze of agents, editors, editorial committees, and even when we actually get published there are critics, booksellers, and library selection committees. We never really know what will spark the readers’ attentions and actually earn big bucks. I’ve asked editors of such books what the secret is and none have the answer, admitting surprise that one of theirs actually made it. Of the thousands of books published every year many are out of print within six months, only a handful makes it to the bookstores. So why do we do it?
People write for individual and personal reasons. They quit writing for individual and personal reasons. As a mentor and teacher for many years I encouraged them to keep writing no matter how many rejections they got. I realize now that I was wrong. Those who are able to quit and move on to paint, bake or sew their creativity should. The born-to-write people will continue to write in the face of adversity without my nudging. Those who write for fame and fortune generally are disappointed and turn to some other activity that answers their need for creativity. Some few who have the financial means and the energy to sell to friends, relatives and a few strangers get tired of the pursuit and self-publish, which has its own problems. The rest are driven to write continue, even with no promise of an audience. Until someone holds a telethon to eradicate the writing bug we are doomed to continue whether we call it a blessing or a curse. We are aboard our own version of The Flying Dutchman, whether or not we ever manage to touch that port/publisher. So be it.
I’m glad that I tried to stop again because it made me take the time to reevaluate why I write. It was an eye opener. I realized that it was not the contracts, not the nice reviews, not another volume on the shelf. I write because it is WHO I am, not WHAT I am. How about you? Why do YOU write?