Why Do You Write?

In the writing communities I belong to, the question being asked is why should I continue to write. Authors of all levels are asking this question because their incomes have dropped dramatically. Many can no longer support their families or the life style they’ve become accustomed too. They’re searching for jobs which will more than likely become their main source of income, or they’re downsizing their properties and portfolios. They’re citing many reasons for this occurrence?

  • Technology has created self-publishing platforms which allow anyone who has the desire and drive to publish their works.

  • Readers can not find them in the volume of books being published each day and advertising is hard to get and not cheap.

  • Readers are demanding more books faster than they can write and more on quickly to those authors who write quickly.

  • They are book farms and book pirates pilfering work and republishing it under a pseudonym.

  • The sea of readers is drying up because of other forms of entertainment have captured their attention.

  • Their readers are sadly dying off.

The list of reasons grows longer every day.

So why write?

Let me tell you a story about a little boy. At the age of three, he received a baseball glove and a ball for Christmas. From that moment on, he was in love with the big-league game. He watched and learned and practiced, and practiced. He played in church leagues, for his school and eventually for the U.S. Air Force team. When he came home from servicing his country, he returned to his church leagues and the city leagues.

One day, he was offered a try out for the Baltimore Team. We went. He wasn’t offered a contract, but it didn’t matter to him. He continued to play hard ball in leagues until he was sixty-four of age when cancer came on the scene. In all the years I’d known him, he once never regretted not making the big leagues because there was so much of his life he loved and would never give up for fame and fortune. But he never stopped loving the game and playing it.

He was my husband and best friend. Jim’s frame of mind mirrored my own as I started on this golden brick road to publishing. I love to talk to my characters and learn about them. I love to research and learn new things. I love creating stories and entertaining others with them. I never thought I’d be the next big thing, nor would I want it. I’ll continue to work my day job (which I’m working now, so I’ll reply when I’m able) to support my family, and have my writing support itself and maybe a nice vacation.

However, we all live in different situations and have different dreams. Whatever you decide is your path, be at peace with it, and know five years down the road the game will change again.






20 responses to “WHY DO YOU WRITE?”

  1. “If I do not write to empty my mind, I go mad.”
    ― George Gordon Byron

    That pretty much covers it. I even have this on a t-shirt. My fellow singers and I often discussed this with our singing master when I was in grad school. She always told us, “If you CAN stop, then do, because this art may well drive you mad or break your heart. But if you cannot stop, then do not, because to try when you cannot will drive you mad and break your soul.”

    I did not debut as a professional opera singer until I was 29 years old. In case you did not know, that is OLD in the opera business. Especially for a coloratura soprano. The voice in that range matures early and becomes frail quickly. I auditioned for American opera houses starting when I was 18. American opera at that time was looking for delicate voices, more beauty than brawn. The need to be able to sing over a 200 piece orchestra was no longer necessary as the floors of opera stages were miked. I was taught by a European style singer and the style was different, or so they said. I remember one opera director (Baltimore Opera Company) said “You have incredible talent, but your voice is like Maria Callas on steroids.” Yeah, not what you want to hear. My professor sent a recording of one of my doctoral recitals to a professor at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. He demanded (Austrians don’t ask) I come over and audition. A year later I debuted at the Salzburg Opera as the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflote. The rest is history, as they say. Turns out the ability to gun down a 200 piece orchestra without a mike and with finesse is exactly what they were looking for. Only took me 11 years. I sang in Europe until I retired. I saw the world. I had a blast. I made money and spent money. And I fulfilled a lifelong dream.

    Fast forward to about 18 or so years ago and I ended up working at Walmart. For FIFTEEN soul-sucking years. It paid the bills, barely, and it was a living. And I was miserable. I took up my very first love – writing romance. I walked away from Walmart nearly three years ago. I make my living writing and editing. I scrape by. I do the best I can. I belong to a great community of fellow writers – my sisters (and some brothers.) I fear I entered this writing thing at just the wrong time. The advent of e books and the glut of books on the market is not easy to deal with. The idea that books are only “worth” 99 cents is killing us. Pirates are killing us. Bot farms, and entitled readers and all sorts of other issues are killing us. We’ve exchanged the gatekeepers in publishing houses for the barbarians at the gates.

    And like the day the Baltimore Opera director told me why I’d never sing in America, I have considered throwing down my sword and creeping away from those gates, abandoning my art, my dreams, and my fellow authors for safety, security and the silence away from the fight. I could go back to Walmart. (I am trusting one or more of you to shoot me if I do.) In a few more years I can collect my Social Security and try to live on that. (If Congress hasn’t given it away to some no doubt deserving millionaire businessman.) But as appealing as that may sound at times, I will still keep hearing Dr. Wood whispering in my ear “If you CAN stop, then do, because this art may well drive you mad or break your heart. But if you cannot stop, then do not, because to try when you cannot will drive you mad and break your soul.”

    How the hell can I argue with that?

    • Louisa, THANK YOU for sharing your story and your thoughts on this subject. I love the words of wisdom Dr. Wood gave you. Artists from every era have suffered for their art. A short finger count of them became wealthy before they died.

      It all comes down to what makes you happy.

      And I will get out my shotgun if I hear Walmart in your future.

    • joan ramirez says:

      I cannot stop writing either. In fact, if I had, my romance novel, Secret Desires, would not be up for an award from Readers Choice and I would not have been invited to talk to a writer’s group in Brooklyn, NY about my autism book. I write to inform people about autism and to help people who are afraid to take second chances in relationships and future book will, I hope, help kids to see how destructive bullying is. As my gifted author friend, Earl Staggs, says to me every time I utter the bad word “quit,” QUITTING IS NOT AN OPTION OPEN FOR DISCUSSION. So, I write on because it gets me going and fills me up as I have a lot to say.

  2. Tamara Hogan says:

    Autumn, “Why do you write?” is such an essential question, isn’t it?

    I was part of a panel discussion at RWA National in 2018 called “Reinvention: The Not So Straight Path to Success,” in which 5 very different writers discussed how they reinvented their careers in the face of evolving and changing market realities and life circumstances. Ever the contrarian, I used some of my time to question how we in our industry come to define success in the first place – and how little of that definition is actually under our control. I recommended everyone put some thought into why they write, and if possible, establish success metrics which align with something we personally control. Given current market conditions, I know I write too slowly to compete, if the success metrics are sales, and frequency of release. But if my success metrics involve satisfaction with the writing? THAT I control. Like so many others, I’ve seen sales and earnings decrease over the last few years. But I can’t NOT WRITE, so what I choose to focus upon is the writing, not the publishing. Writing is the thing I control. Publishing is a different animal altogether. 🙂

    As a writer, I’ve had a decade to come to terms with this – but I also teach creative writing, and I continually wrestle with the question of how much ‘industry reality’ I should share with writers whose fondest dream is to publish their first novel, to write full time, and/or to “make a killing publishing on Amazon.” Sometimes it’s all I can do to not say, “Oh, my sweet summer child…”

    I’m teaching a genre fiction class this summer, and I’ve decided to allocate a little time to the business of being a writer – agents, contracts, advances, royalties, expenses, taxes – some simple, back-of-the-envelope math – to help people set some realistic financial expectations.

    Yep, just call me The Dreamkiller. Wish me luck!

    • I know exactly what you mean about worrying you’re killing dreams. I *LOVE* writing, but I’m not gonna sugarcoat it and pretend it’s all millionaires and sunshine. I think it’s important to know what you’re getting into when you start a writing career – and whether you can handle the bad. I’m a huge proponent of getting rejected early and often as you’re learning, so you know you have the thick skin and inner fortitude to keep at it later in your career when you face inevitable obstacles. I also think it keeps you humble – because until you get your first rejection you might think you’re the Miracle Writer who will be Beloved By All and Never Rejected – and that reality check is an important one!

      That’s essentially my long, rambling way of saying “Go forth and kill dreams, Tammy!” 😀

    • I agree with everything Vivi said. And I think, no I know that why readers are frustrated is because many people have the same attitude–their book in the end all– and just publishing inferior work. They don’t want to take the time to study the craft before they publish.

      Heck, I still feel I have so much to learn and I’ve been doing this for fifteen plus years.

      So go forth and tell it like it is.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      “Oh, my sweet summer child…” LOL.

  3. I seriously considered quitting a few years ago, when things were particularly bleak for me financially – but it made me so miserable to even really think about quitting that I knew it would shatter me if I actually did it. That doesn’t mean there won’t be times when I have to prioritize other things – or times when I need to supplement my income – but I’m so much happier when I’m writing, and I’m ready to evolve with this industry as it continues to shift. There will always be pros and cons to publishing – and it will probably always be changing as we try to keep up – but luckily I like change. 🙂

    To play off what Louisa & Tammy said – if you can be happier doing something else, do it! But if writing is what fills you up with happy juju, then try thinking about success in a way that fosters that happiness, rather than derails it.

    I still worry about my slipping numbers (and probably always will), but as long as I’m putting more love into the world (my personal measure of success) then I’m on the right path. Great post, Autumn.

    • Thanks, Vivi, for adding to the discussion and the compliment.

      I’m like you. I realize things will always change and I get excited knowing there will be something new to learn.

  4. Gwyn says:

    I love, love, LOVE this post, AJ.

    My heart breaks at the blatant thievery ravaging our author ranks. So many excellent writers are no longer publishing because, frankly, covers, editing, and all the other peripherals publishing a book requires are expensive, and if the work can’t, at the very least, earn back expenses, it becomes a drain on finances, family, and all non-writing related aspects of an author’s life.

    Have all these authors stopped writing? I doubt it. They’re just no longer publishing. If we, as a breed, are nothing else, we are indomitable. The industry changes. We write on and hope for a better tomorrow.

    • So true, Gwyn. The true writer will write whether they publish or not. And they should, because as its been mentioned. The industry will change again and who knows what doors will open. I hope to ready when they do.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  5. Kate Parker says:

    I started seriously writing in 1999, when my youngest graduated from college and my husband first became ill to fill a hole in my time and my dreams. Fourteen years, 18 manuscripts and 3 Golden Heart finals later, I finally sold my first book.

    If I could write through that drought, I can write through this one. I have to. Otherwise, the voices in my head would stay in there constantly yelling over each other.

    I agree with my Ruby sisters. If we didn’t write, we wouldn’t be complete. We wouldn’t have something we love.

  6. I wrote long before dreaming of being published. The satisfaction of putting a story to paper drove me, and still does. Thanks for the post, Di, and for making me think about it again. And I loved hearing about your husband and his love for baseball!

  7. Elisa Beatty says:

    Thanks for this post, Di!!

    I appreciate the reminders in the comments that the current state of publishing, with the pirates and the glut of inferior books, may not last forever.

    But whether it does or not, count me among those who just can’t stop writing!!

    Your husband’s attitude was the best one!

  8. Addison Fox says:

    I love this post, AJ!! And I love the comments – all so very true and all reflective of how I feel as well. I can’t not write – it’s as simple as that. It brings a sense of joy to create characters on the page. That level of happiness is the personal success I simply can’t give up!



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