This has been a rough and stormy year for my writing. My goals in January now strike me as over-ambitious and without consideration of my need to pay bills. I miss my writing life, i.e. when I wasn’t working for someone else and I could focus all my time on writing. That was an extraordinarily important time, I realize now, because it gave me the opportunity to experiment, to study, to write what I felt the need to write, and to grow…a lot. Now that writing doesn’t have 100% of my time, I struggle like so many writers and then I begin to wonder just why I’m doing all this struggling.
And then I happened to clean out one of my professional e-mail accounts where I receive a lot of writing information, including the Funds for Writers newsletter. The editor/writer, Hope Clark, writes a short piece at the top of the newsletter usually about a topic that has come up in her writing life recently. In one of the September newsletters, she wrote a piece entitled “Why You Have to Write.” It was a reminder to me about what’s important in writing. I want to thank Hope Clark for writing that piece, and I include it in its entirety below.
“WHY YOU HAVE TO WRITE
I read a piece in Marie Claire titled “I Published My Debut Novel to Critical Acclaim – and Then I Promptly Went Broke.” And I caught my head nodding in agreement with the writer. http://www.marieclaire.com/career-advice/features/a22573/merritt-tierce-love-me-back-writing-and-money/
About once a year I find myself at a crossroad in my writing. I love freelancing, and FundsforWriters, and novel writing. I wish I could do just one of them, but the fact is these days you cannot just do one. You must diversify and spread your name (and talent) around to reach all the pockets of readers out there. It takes diversification to earn a living.
Look at the names out there other than the mega-authors like King, Grisham, or Patterson. Joanna Penn comes to mind. She writes novels, but I guarantee that she makes more money with her speaking, freelancing and affiliate connections. They all feed off each other. That is how a writer makes a full-time living.
And if your heart is in writing novels, well, read the above article in Marie Claire and you’ll pull up short. That author explains that having a bestseller sold through a New York agent to a New York publishing house still doesn’t bring in enough money to pay the bills.
So . . . back to the crossroad I mentioned earlier. When I receive a disappointing royalty check, or lose sleep trying to put the finishing touches on Chapter 20 while trying not to think about the royalty check I just received, I make myself take a moment.
What do I do with that moment? I allow a while to mourn. Mourn that writing isn’t exactly as I hoped it would be. Mourn that I have to do administrative and other writing work that don’t exactly feed my muse. Then I always ask myself the following question: “Why do you write?”
Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain,
but all the happiness and growth occurs
while you’re climbing it.
~ Andy Rooney
That’s right. It’s about the journey. When you are rushing through a manuscript, you miss that experience. When you write for the dollar, you get distracted from the enjoyment of the expedition. Recall why you started writing in the first place . . . for the thrill of story, the pleasure of seeing words come together in remarkable ways. And the legacy of putting your thoughts down for others to read after you.
To master the sweat and pain, to weather the disillusionment, recall why you started writing.”
And I vow again to write, and write, and write what thrills my soul to write and not let anything stop me. At the same time remembering that every experience daily is part of who I am and therefore part of my writing.