Here’s my problem with “Why I Write” articles: They usually boil down to the author making three distinct points, and two of them aren’t really true. I’ll pick apart my own writing on this subject, not anyone else’s.
Point 1: I love reading and writing. This one is true. And to this, I say, “Duh.”
It’s a given. It’s like a pitcher saying he loves baseball. Write, edit, tweak and rewrite. It’s hard, often thankless work. Rejection by publishers and agents is a brutal reality, and writers submit and submit and submit, and the rejection letters pile up. Our words are our blood, sweat and tears, and they are turned down repeatedly. Yet we keep at it, and because we do keep at it despite the adversity, it goes without saying that writers love reading and writing.
Point 2: I write only for myself. To this, I say, “Shenanigans.”
Note that this is not the same as saying, “I write stories I would like to read.”
Saying “I write only for myself” is a defense. It’s like saying, “I don’t care what anyone thinks, because I wrote this just for me, anyway.” This way, if someone doesn’t like the story, there is an emotional pillow to fall on. If a writer really wrote only for themself, they would never share their work with others. They would never submit it and certainly never put up with the demoralization that goes along with the rejections or experience the elation on those times work is accepted.
I’ll tell you exactly why I write: I have something to say and I want someone to hear it. No man who has something to say is content to just say it to an empty room. I write to be read, and anything I create is dead until a reader breathes life into it.
Maybe what should be said is: “I write because I can’t not write.” It’s grammatically incorrect (according to MS Word), but it is true, for me anyway. Considering the state of the publishing industry, it could also be argued that it is dysfunctional as well.
Point 3: I’m so special because I write. The words are not said exactly like that but it’s what they mean, and to this I say, “Not really.”
People could view this the same as, “I’m special because I drive a car and dress myself.” Every literate person can write, and of those, about 69% think they could write a book. I believe they could, too.
As writers, we know how special it is to put our thoughts, ideas and feelings out there; it’s risky and we do it anyway. We are the 2% of that 69% that do write, and we get it, but we are all doing it and therefore, not special. We can’t expect normal people to understand. And yes, I call them normal.
I look at my “successes” as a writer – the times I have been published. All but one was done gratis. Some of them don’t even give me a copy of the publication my work appears in. The one that did pay came to about $20. Is that special? Not really. Getting paid more wouldn’t be special either, but it would be cool.
It’s just stepping stones to where I want to be. All of it is stepping stones and exercises. Eyes ahead, I continue to climb, and there is nothing exceptional about just putting one foot in front of the other, but it’s the only way I know how to move forward.
And if you disagree with anything here, well, that’s okay.
I’m very special, love reading and writing and I wrote this only for myself, anyway.
copyright 2011, Mitch Lavender