Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Writing Success for Big Failures

Why do writers write? It would be funny if it weren’t so sad, but I often hear people talk about taking up writing to make money. I was listening to the radio a few months ago and they were doing a career makeover. They had a guy on the show who had been laid off and they were taking him through a process of finding something else he could do. After some reflection, he decided that he could become a writer. I have no way of knowing what became of him, but I doubt he is out there making a living from writing. Most writers, even those with publishing contracts, don’t make enough from their writing to make a living. So why do it if we aren’t going to make money from it?

I think it has as much to do with the dream as the money. All writers are dreamers. Even though it may be unrealistic for us to believe that we’ll be able to quit our day job and just write, many of writers have that dream. Daydreams are a funny thing. They aren’t quite as effective at creating memories as an actual experience, but they come close. People buy lottery tickets, just so they can dream of what it would be like if they found out theirs was the winning ticket. Writers do something similar. Sending a manuscript to an agent or having a book in print allows us to dream of what it would be like if our book was flying off the shelf and people couldn’t wait until our next book came out. It is disappointing when we see the form rejection letters or the sales figures. That leads to frustration and sometimes we voice that frustration, but in between we enjoy the daydream. We also get to spend time in the imaginary world in which our characters reside. That is pleasure in itself.

When frustration comes, there’s not much we can do about it other than just get through it, but I think it is worth reminding ourselves that our greatest pleasure from writing isn’t going to come from a big contract and a lot of fans. Our greatest pleasure will come from dreaming about those things. We can do that already. That’s not to say we should quit trying to succeed. We need to keep submitting manuscripts, publishing books and checking our sales figures to keep the dream alive, but the little successes will bring as much enjoyment to our efforts as big success.

And now, I hope you will help me keep my dream alive by purchasing Book Cover Design Wizardry or Mother Not Wanted.