Monday, July 23, 2012

Why Do I Bother?

“Don’t do it.”

Sometimes, that’s the best advice I can give someone who has stars in their eyes asking about becoming a writer.

“Don’t do it.”

It’s easy to believe in the dream. I was there only a couple years ago. You think, “Oh, if I could just get picked up by a publisher!” You see your cover for the first time or, better yet, you hold a real physical copy of your book in your hands! Or that first moment that you walk into a bookstore—in another town—and see your book sitting on the shelf. Your literary baby has come home from the hospital and it’s a beautiful feeling.

But it won’t last.

Once the euphoria settles, then people start bringing up the ugly “M” word—marketing. Now you’ve got to convince 7 billion people that your baby is as beautiful as you believe she is. Some people are going to agree with you. They’ll love your book. Others will hate it. Think it’s trash.

I don’t mind those latter people though.

Because, the cold hard truth that writers rarely tell you is that most people—about 99% of the world—will never read your book. Moreover, they just won’t care. You could spend an entire day walking around the library or your local Barnes and Noble and hold every book in your hand. Imagine that, at one point in time, someone felt like you did—holding their book for the first time, thinking they were going to change the world. Some accomplished that dream. Most never will. You probably never will.

Blog tours won’t pick you up, or if they do, nobody will come and check it out. You may get a couple book signings and have fifteen people show up. You’ll send out review copies to reputable places, and they won’t read it for whatever reason. They’re busy or they forgot or their cat had kittens, it doesn’t matter. They don’t make time for you. It’s nothing personal, it’s just the way of things. Others might read your book and love it, but they won’t take a second to leave a review on Amazon or tell their friend. Publishers lose heart when you can’t bring the money in and they make hard decisions, no matter how much they supported you in the beginning.

This is happening to all of us writers. I talk to many writers on a daily basis, and they’re losing contracts, dealing with apathetic readers, struggling to just announce to the world that they’re even alive. But it seems that no matter what we do, the hard truth is that most people don’t care.

So why bother with writing at all?

If you want to be a writer, I’ll tell you that, if you can choose something else to do with your life, do that instead. Be a plumber. There’s got to be more job security there, more return for your hard work. As a writer you’ll spend countless nights at the computer, away from your family, bleeding on the page. You’ll break your heart and pour your soul into every word…and then people won’t read it. Or they’ll shrug, toss your book to the side, and find something else to do. That’s reality.

So why do I bother? I’m working on seven books as we speak! Why? I’m just another faceless name on the spine of a book in an aisle of the bookstore that you’ll never go down. You’d love my book, but you won’t read it. You may never have even heard of it. And I have no idea how to get it to you.

Why do I bother?

Sure, I could “get lucky” and write some crazy mega-selling hit. But then what? What comes after that? Obscurity again? What if I never achieve fame? What if only two thousand people read my book in my entire life? Am I a failure?

Man…why do I bother?

I’ll tell you. I bother because, one night at four in the morning, I woke up with an idea that made me dance with excitement, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I bother because, while driving on my way to work after my lunch break, I saw a scene in my head of two estranged characters reuniting and it literally brought tears to my eyes. I bother because these are not isolated incidents, but weekly occurrences. I bother because writing is not a choice. It is who you are. Who God made you to be. I bother for the same reasons you do: Because to stop telling your stories is to stop breathing. I try to stop all the time. I make declarations to my wife that “After this story, that’s it. I’m done. It’s just not worth it anymore.” And she smiles and nods and says “Sure.” And you know what? She’s right to mock me. Because next week I’ll have a new idea and I can’t sit still. I HAVE to write it. I have to take that journey, go on that adventure—just one more time.

I would love it if you read my books. I would love it if you posted reviews—hey, even negative ones!—on Amazon or wherever you post such things. I would love it if you moved me to the top of your reading pile.

But even if you didn’t, it’s okay. I can’t write for those things.

I write because I love it.

To the readers out there, when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, why do you bother?

1 comment:

Bruce Hennigan said...

Man, did you nail it or what? I just got back from ICRS and I can't tell you how many of us "bottom feeding" authors (I guess that is a good description) were trolling around passing out cards and pamphlets and hitting up book store owners to carry out books. I count myself even though I have a contract because, as you put it so well, without all the marketing Umph, a contract means nothing.
This past Saturday, a local financial advisor asked me to speak on writing and bought some of my 13th Demon books to give away at a book signing at the event.
I was asked many times about the "writing life" and people were shocked at how much time we have to spend just getting the book in front of a potential reader! Man, it is tiring and it takes away from those magical moments sitting in front of a blank screen and watching it fill up with stuff that comes from my head.
Keep up the good work. I read your books and I relentlessly recommend them to everyone I speak to who likes Christian Speculative Fiction. And, don't worry, our little books will sit there on the shelf amidst all the Amish romances and maybe they'll comfort each other.