April 2014 will mark my second year as a published independent author. A huge milestone, really, especially when I didn’t celebrate my first year because I was frantically prepping my third novel for release at the time and barely noticed the anniversary. And a doubly-huge milestone when one considers that I wrote my first several-thousand word story when I was in fifth grade. (It was a horror story about the babysitter getting slashed to ribbons and the children being abducted. Fortunately, my parents and my babysitter never read it). All that to say, this month marks my 1.5 year publication anniversary, and the first time since it all began that I have a moment to give this adventure some (over?)due reflection.
The thing about being a writer, as I was discussing with a brilliant writer friend of mine yesterday, Sezin Koehler, is that you never feel quite right unless you’re writing. If a day goes by that words have not spilled from your brainmeats onto a page, you begin to harbor insidious thoughts about the possibility that you’re a failure, that you don’t have what it takes to cut it as an author, that you are just faking it. It may be a scientific fact that the only time writers feels that we qualify as full members of the human race is when we are actually writing. Not when we “have written” or “are planning the next book,” but when our fingers are actually tapping on the keyboard or moving a pen over a page.
(Which, incidentally, may also be why so many of us also blog when we’re not working on a creative piece. It’s validation, even if the results are little more than instances of embarrassing oversharing.)
Given this subjective fact (get it? subjective fact? haha, um…), I can state with zen-soaked certainty that my experiences in the writing world have proved beyond a doubt that I am a writer. Okay, let me back up and explain that somewhat circular statement.
The reasons people write are legion. But for those who write and publish, whether traditionally or nontraditionally (though these definitions will become somewhat more fluid over the next few years, I predict), the reasons may be more limited. There’s the obvious “I want to make tons of dough” and “I feel like this story needs to be heard,” or even more simply “My parents ignored me as a child so now I want ALL the attention.” Then there’s the more subtle “I think this concept can be commercially successful, so I want to give it a go” and “It doesn’t matter if not a lot of people buy it, I’m just having fun.” Yea verily, the common denominator for those who publish is the hope for an audience.
And so, as happens to many authors who publish (and more who self-publish), where does that leave us when the audience is either absent or very small, quiet, and/or invisible? I will tell you where that leaves us—at the reflecting pool. You know, the one bubbling with starving piranhas.
My reason for publishing my books was somewhere within the “I think this concept can be commercially successful, so I want to give it a go” and “It doesn’t matter if not a lot of people buy it, I’m just having fun” range. And while I have had limited commercial or financial success with my books, I can say without a nanosecond of hesitation that choosing to make my writing public has heaped on me some of the greatest rewards a person like me could experience. The sense of satisfaction one receives from the sincerely meant praise of complete strangers about one’s words is nearly equivalent to being handed the keys to paradise. Really. What more could a writer hope for?
So, upon reflecting on the last eighteen months of being published and the few hundred dollars I’ve earned, the thing that brings my arse back to my seat and positions my fingers over the keyboard every morning is not an expectation that I must create the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings novels, but, simply, because I love to write. I am a writer.
How about you, dear writers, why do you write?
PS: You’re welcome to read my review of Sezin’s first novel, American Monsters, here.