Friday, December 07, 2007

Write Because You Love To

I debated titling this post "A Harsh Dose of Reality," but that sounded scary and I didn't want to scare anyone off with the title. I thought I'd wait and do it with my first sentence. It's important to note that I'm not here to throw a bucket of ice water on anyone's dreams. It's important to chase your dreams - whatever they may be - with all the vigor and passion you can muster. But there are also certain realities that must to be faced. Arguing with them is like arguing with gravity; you can say as often as you like that you don't believe in gravity, but if you step off that third floor balcony without making the proper preparations, you will have some unpleasant consequences to deal with.

And the first dose of reality is this: publishing is a business. Notice, I didn't say writing is a business. Writing can be a business, but it can also be a lot of other things. That's why you need to know why you are writing. I'll come back to that in a minute.

Publishing, however, is always a business. And your short story or novel or essay or magazine article or whatever it is that you write is a bottle of ketchup to a publisher. It is a product to be marketed and moved and placed and, ultimately, consumed. And with writing, as with ketchup, the better quality the product, the better it is going to sell. So by all means, take all the time you need in order to create the highest quality piece of work you can. Baby that story, love it, agonize over its development.

And then send it out into the marketplace. Because unless you're going to spend your entire "career" writing for your Great Aunt Tilly, that is where your stories are going to have to go. And be prepared to deal with the accompanying realities of said harsh marketplace.

Now, I have a feeling at this point that you're struggling with a disconnect between the idea of stories going out into a harsh marketplace and the title of this post, "Write Because You Love To." Let me connect the dots for you as succinctly as possible, with a series of question and answers.

Do you need to produce the highest quality writing possible in order to get published? Of course.

Are you going to get rejected? Of course.

Are you going to put a lot of hours into writing, hours that could be spent with friends and family; watching TV or movies; hiking, biking, gardening, reading, or whatever else makes you happy? Of course (if you're serious).

Are you going to make a lot of money as a writer (even though you've make all these sacrifices)? Of course NOT.

And what one thing is going to see you through all of this? What one thing is going to ensure that you do produce the highest quality of writing you can? What one thing is going to make you get up tomorrow morning and do it all again? What one thing--

All right, enough already. I'm sure I've made my point.

The answer, of course, is Loving What You Do.

So hold on to that. It's what (I hope) got you started in the first place. The day you start writing only for the money, you're in trouble. I say "only" because there's nothing wrong with wanting to be paid for what you do. The epitome of success is getting paid for doing something you love. But you see, there's that word: Love. Getting paid for something you love requires the love.

And I've learned that you're much more likely to achieve it if you keep sight at all times on the reason you started writing in the first place.

I wish you nothing but success.


Anonymous said...

It's like those t-shirts that are all over the place...

Do what you like, like what you do.

That about sums up writing for me. :)

Dena said...

I read a quote the other day from a writer on deailing with rejection and feeling underappreciated that said, "It's not the world's fault you wanted to be an artist. Now get back to work."

Edmund R. Schubert said...

That's a great quote. I love it.

Now get back to work.