Why I write
Photo courtesy of a brief stay in the mountains of Vermont.
What’s the point of writing stories?
There’s no money in it. There’s little or no fame. Statistically, you’ll never make enough money to feed yourself and if you sell over 500-hundred copies in your lifetime, you’re above average (that’s for everything you’ve ever written combined, assuming you publish more than one thing). Your typical fan base equals your family and a few close friends. Likely, the high point of your writing career will be your debut novel, your very first publication. A flurry of activity ensues, you get tons of Facebook “likes”, people congratulate you, your sales spike, and you’ll sell twenty-five copies in the first month. Hell, you might even get a few Amazon reviews. And after that…
It all goes quiet. You’ll check your Amazon page, but you’ll stop after a while. Maybe you’ll write another book and do the whole process over again; that is, if you’re one of the few who actually writes a second book. Even if you’re traditionally published by one of the Big 5 publishing houses, it’s basically the same formula. At the end of the day, no one cares that you wrote a book.
Oh sure, people who know you think it’s neat, you’ll get admirative expressions, but no one really cares. Other than family and those few close friends, no one is running out and buying your book. All those hours you spent writing it, editing it, and publishing it – all that time giving birth to your creation – and what do you end up with when people ask how it’s going? Either having to be honest and tell them, I’ve sold a few copies, or lying through your teeth and saying with a fake smile, it’s actually going great! Pride’s a bitch.
And here are a few anecdotal statistics to pour more fuel on the fire of pessimism:
200 million people in the United States say they’d like to publish a book.
Of those, 97% never finish writing a book. Which means that by these estimates, 6 million people actually type The End. Now, if you compare that to the number of print sales in 2017, roughly 687 million according to Publishers’ Weekly, the number of writers nearly equals the number of books sold! My god, talk about too many cooks in the kitchen.
Now clearly, these numbers can be construed a dozen different ways and it doesn’t mean no one is having success as an author because we obviously know they are, but I hope my point is clear – it’s an ocean of words, books, and writers out there. How much of the ocean actually gets seen? Typically, just the surface. There is no visibility into all that water underneath.
And poignantly, beneath the surface, unseen and unknown, is where most of our writing exists, metaphorically speaking.
So why do it? Why waste time writing stories no one will likely see?
Well, here’s my reason…
Because I don’t know what else to do, that’s why. I don’t care if only a few people see my stories; fame and fortune is not why I write them. Granted, I wouldn’t sit around and gripe if I had either of those things, but seriously my friends, fame and fortune do not splash words on the page.
It’s that simple. I’m not trying to sound cheesy here or attempting to kiss anyone’s ass, I’m just telling you that if only one person ever reads my stories, then that’s enough. I won’t get too over-dramatic and say I’ll die if I don’t write my stories, but I will say that writing is not something I do as a little hobby or because I’m bored.
It’s deeper than that. It’s inherent. Everything I see and experience is a story. Every little town I pass through and every little road I travel down… all stories waiting to be told. Even gazing across a field bathed in sunshine is a story as I picture myself strolling barefoot across the warm pasture with blades of grass tickling the sides of my feet.
Sometimes it’s a dream. Sometimes it’s simply a vision.
Regardless of where it comes from, it’s always there; the people, the places, the situations. Always there and wanting to be told. As many of you know, I’ve been writing stories since I was very young. No one asked me to. No one demanded it. It’s just something I started to do one day. That was even before Microsoft Word!
I can remember my very first story – thirteen-years-old, staring at a clump of trees and thinking, what if something horrible is hiding in there.
Then I read Cujo by Stephen King and oh my god, I knew I wanted to write books. From that point on, I never stopped writing stories. Writing is fulfillment. Satisfaction. For me, the stories are real.
I won’t lie to you, I’d love to make a living at this. I crave it. It’s what I was born to do. What I’m called to do. That’s what I think, anyway.
But alas, if it was the money I sought, the fame, and the validation, the creative process would become empty and meaningless. I don’t write for any of those material things.
I only write for you.
And for me.
Because in the end, when I’m telling you a story and you’re reading it, it’s just the two of us anyway.
So what’s the point?
It comes down to one thing… one very simple and wonderful thing.
I want to whisk you away. Either for a brief trip with a short story, or maybe a longer ride with a novel, I want to transport you to another place, another world, as your eyes engulf the words, I want you to forget about everyday life for a bit. Just let it go and step into my imaginary land and meet my imaginary people.
I’m not trying to teach you anything. There are no moral lessons or expectations. There’s no quiz at the end.
I write to entertain you, my reader, and to make the most intimate of connections where for that brief moment, it’s just the two of us. And maybe, just maybe, I catch that flicker of wonder in your eye, that subtle curl at the corner of your mouth that tells me you’re in my world and you’re enjoying being there, with me.
And that, my friends, is why I write stories.