Why do I write?
I’ve asked myself that question recently. Making it in writing is hard—some might say well-nigh impossible. Trying to build a platform is excruciating, grasping for those elusive social media followers. Then there’s the strategizing. Who should I submit to? Should I self-publish? (The answer is no, not unless you have no other options.) How do I avoid sabotaging my future career when one little mistake can make agents and publishers reject me?
There’s constant rejection. You pour your heart into a piece and people tell you it’s terrible. You actually get something published, and it flops with the public. And do we even need to talk about the agony of editing over and over and over, only to still find that typo in print?
You have to be completely ignorant if you write because you want money. You’re better off working fast food. You’re deluded if you want fame. Most writers will never be known to anyone but their friends. This is a terrible career choice if you want admiration. People will rip your work apart.
So why do I write?
I don’t financially need to write. There’s far more of a career in agenting and editing, which are what I would currently consider my jobs, with freelance writing as more of a side job and novel writing a labor of love.
So it seems foolish. Why waste my time?
Because I can’t not write.
When characters come into my head who demand a story, I write.
When I’m excited about something, I write.
When I want to have fun, I write.
When I want to figure something out, I write.
When I’m writing, it feels natural. I’m in my comfort zone, my world. I can write whatever I want. I can discover new things. No one is telling me what to do; I’m just exploring. It’s like reading something tailored to me, because I am tailoring it to me.
When I picture my future, I try to imagine myself in a variety of jobs. But no matter what I think of, I can’t imagine not writing. I would at least have to write on the side.
If I didn’t write, how would I know what I think? How would I know who I am? Without this art, I feel like I would wither away, turning into a shriveled, crumpled leaf.
But, in general, writing is a terrible career choice. Unless you want to write ad campaigns or technical papers, you might as well give up.
Everyone wants to be a writer. But I don’t think many people realize what that means. Are you willing to live with the below?
- Writing will take hundreds of hours.
- You’ll have to say no to other things.
- The writing will be hard and sometimes you’ll want to pull your hair out.
- You’ll spend twice as much time editing as you do writing—if you don’t, you’re doing it wrong.
- You’ll spend as much time submitting and marketing and networking as you did writing.
- Some people are going to hate what you write. A lot of people. And they’re going to reject your writing. Over and over.
- The chances of getting published are astronomically small.
- You’ll have to write a lot of things you don’t care about, for a lot of newspapers and magazines you don’t care about, for no pay, before you can write things you do care about.
- If you do get a book published, it will probably be by a small press, and few people will read it.
- You almost certainly won’t make enough money to even make the minimum wage toward the hours you spent on the project, if you do somehow manage to get published.
- If you’re lucky enough to get reviews, some (or many) of them will be nasty.
- Making a living as a novelist is so rare that it might as well be impossible.
- Most people never make it past step four.
If someone asked me if they should pursue a career as a writer, I would resoundingly, emphatically say no. It’s absolutely foolish.
But if someone told me that writing is their passion, that they can’t live without it, that they can’t stop, that they can’t imagine doing anything else and they’re willing to do whatever it takes, even if they never succeed, because the craft is worth it…
Do it. Be a writer. Do what you were made to do.
Besides. If you can’t live without it, you’re not going to listen to me anyway.