Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why we Write


“Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.”

Jules Renard  (1864 - 1910)
”We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.”

W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965)

If you haven’t yet read bestselling author Lynn Viehl’s blog post on the breakdown of her royalty statement, it makes for interesting reading.  For a variety of reasons, actually. 

I guess in most industries, people try to see how their compensation measures up to others’. I’m certainly not above that. It’s nice in some ways to know that our wages are on target with the profession as a whole.

But to me, the most interesting facet of the royalty statement was that it illuminated the fact that even best-selling authors aren’t making gobs of money in this business.  Don’t get me wrong—netting $26,000 for one book is good gravy for a writer.  But, if you’ve got a family, you’re not exactly quitting your day job over it. 

So why do we do it? 

I think most of us write because we absolutely have to.

Toni McGee Causey posted a very interesting blog post on Murderati entitled “How Do You Know When to Quit?” Actually, however, the post focuses on not quitting.  It references Christie Craig’s inspiring story of her long road to a published book. 

I love mysteries. When I read mysteries, I want to write my own.  The ideas fly through my head and I grab paper and pencil to put them down.

Writers who stick with the process, who put in the hours, who edit their manuscripts umpteen million times, who do all this despite the money---they’re the ones who’re dedicated enough to stay in for the long haul. 

So here is my own, personal Top Five list.  Top Five Reasons Why I Write:

1. It’s cheaper than therapy.

2. It’s cheap, period. Think about it---no other hobby or profession can match it.  If you can afford the dollar store, you can afford to write.

3. I need to express myself creatively. I’m a creative person who can’t act, paint, draw, sculpt, or dance. Writing is my outlet.

4. The voices tell me to do it.  Okay, I’m being funny here….sort of.  Am I the only writer who has 2 characters’ dialogue running through their heads?

5. I feel driven to do it. I write, not necessarily by choice, but from a real need to write. Even as a kid, I filled journal after journal. I wrote for school magazines and newspapers.  Then I graduated to getting signed up for internships, and sending packet after packet to publishers. 

How about you? Why do you write?