Let's celebrate the fact that there are SO many people who have a burning need to write. For many, it's a form of escape from a life that's structured, stifling, and emotionally draining. Which is to say pretty much all modern life.
I don't mean to say that escape is bad. It isn't. Those of us who write were blessed to be born with imaginations, creative instincts, and the drive to make something beyond ourselves. And yes, that includes something beyond money and our children.
Those of us who write for the love of writing grew up as readers. We dove heart-first into worlds populated by hobbits and dragons, by princesses, witches, and vampires--sparkly or otherwise. We saw, and still see, romance and heartbreak, justice and injustice swirling all around us, and we want to do something about that. Firing up our imaginations isn't a hobby; it's an imperative.
Now here's the tricky part. We're entitled to write. We should write. We have to write.
We should't feel guilty about writing. Exercising our imaginations is just as critical as exercising our bodies.
1) It keeps us sane.
2) It keeps us (somewhat) emotionally engaged and balanced.
3) It keeps our brains active and alive and, medically, there's evidence that will keep them young.
Why then is writing so filled with angst and guilt?
Here's my theory. Eh hem. Somewhere in the last decade of Amazon, we all got the idea that writing equals publishing. That somehow, it's not valid to write UNLESS you publish. And these days, let's face it, that means that we're essentially saying that you can't write unless you want to spend money and time and energy to also market what you've written.
I call bullcrap. Isn't it time someone did? You know who is making money off this model? Amazon, honestly. Not us. Not the vast majority of the authors who indie pub. Not the VAST majority of authors who publish traditionally. Not even the traditional publishers or the other booksellers. And the thing is, I'm not sure that all the effort really sells many books.
I've done a lot of marketing for my series, and I don't regret it. I could afford to do it, because I've been very lucky in publishing. But truly, that's the giant claw of luck picking me out of the pile, not because of anything that I've done specifically. That could have been anyone else just as easily once the manuscript got to a certain level.
I do cringe though when I hear the stories about how much time and heartache and money my friends are spending on the business of getting published. I get questions all the time about whether they should quit and give up. Where should they spend the marketing dollars? What events should they go to? Will they fall behind if they don't do a blog tour or a physical tour or getting into this or that? Bleh. I think marketing is great if writers WANT to be marketers. I think it sucks if someone who wants to write feel they have to be a full time marketing person in order to be a writer.
Writing does NOT equal publishing. There is joy, such marvelous, spinning, swirling, uplifting joy, in pouring words onto a page and writing to connect with the world. Of course, we fall in love with our characters and our worlds and our themes as we write. We want to share all that with others. We want our work acknowledged and appreciated.
But here's where we have to ask ourselves about the rest of it. If what we love is the writing, then shouldn't we find a way to reclaim the writing, the joy of writing? Wouldn't we be happier if we let go of any of the rest that doesn't bring us joy?
The answer to that isn't universal. It's going to be a different answer for everyone. But if you're struggling with whether to write, and you're struggling with the decision whether to indy pub or try for traditional publication, I'm going to suggest that you put the Amazon-factor aside for a moment and ask yourself a few questions.
Why are you writing?
- Is it because you love to write? Then write. Write the best damn book you can write. If you don't like revision or worrying about whether readers will love it, then write, finish, and go on to the next book. Think of this like painting. Or playing the violin. It's okay to do it because you love it.
- Is it because you love revision and the process of making the book the best it can be? Then spend your money on taking workshops, classes, and getting the best critique group you can put together. Go the traditional publishing route, because getting an agent and an editor WILL make you better. Again, think of this as painting. How many great painters ever got to hang in galleries? A few were lucky to get to hang on the walls of people's homes, and that small success made it all worthwhile. It doesn't matter if your book deal is big or small. You shared your work with readers, and you grew as a writer.
- Is it because you love connecting with readers and talking to them about your writing? You want to reach as many readers as you can without the publishing side of the equation? Take advantage of Wattpad or similar sites and put your words out there. Or join a fanfic site and build a following for your work. You can get the creative outlet and the joy of writing there combined with the reader connection, without the gatekeepers of traditional publishing or the expense of indie pubbing.
- Is it because you want to control the process of publication and get a bigger risk for the reward of publishing? If you want to hire editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and spend time, energy, and money becoming a promoter and marketer because you love doing that, then indie pub. But know that at that point, you're an entrepreneur, not just a writer. It's a different thing. A grand thing, to be sure, but at that point, you're opening a small business. And most small businesses fail. There are greater reward for those who succeed, but that's the nature of the business.
- Is it because you want to make a ton of money writing? Seriously, the odds aren't in your favor. You'd be better off playing the lottery, and realistically, that's what this is. It's a lottery. Or a crap shoot. And the business of publishing is damn hard work.
Luckily, writing does NOT equal publishing.
We have to be honest with ourselves about why we're writing. Writing doesn't have to cost much to do. It doesn't have to be something we give ourselves permission to do. It should be something we do for our mental health, not something we do that steals our mental health.
Stand up, writers. Reclaim the joy of writing. Own it. Give yourself permission to take joy in pouring words on a page.
This Week's Giveaway
I'm thrilled and honored to be able to give a shout out to Kim Liggett, whose beautiful book comes out today. You want this one, guys. Truly you do!
Blood and Salt
by Kim Liggett
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.
“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”
These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.
Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.
As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.
Purchase Blood and Salt at Amazon
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What do you think? Are you writing? Thinking about writing? Thinking about quitting? Why do you want to write? What's your story?