Friday, November 25, 2011

The Carrot

When a friend found out just how little I make from writing books he asked why I would put so much time into writing a book when I make so little from it. I sometimes wonder the same thing and yet I find myself at the computer typing away on that next book.

I’m sure the answer is different for everyone. I frequently hear of people who have lost a job and have decided that they’re going to write for a living. Anyone who knows much about the publishing industry knows this is an unrealistic goal for most people, but I think I understand it. Writing is one of those jobs that people feel they can do and they don’t have a boss to report to. So it gives them the feeling of control over their situation. But that’s not the reason I write.

Writing is a form of communication. When I write, I hope to communicate, but I see many indications that that is not my primary goal. If it were, I would do more to give my books away. You can’t communicate if you don’t get the book into people’s hands, so it would make sense to get them into people’s hands, even if it required spending a lot of money to do it.

I believe the thing that drives me to write is the challenge. Just the effort required to fill 300+ pages with text isn’t easy. It takes approximate ½ million key presses to write a novel. Even more if you have to edit a lot. Imagine sitting at a computer and hitting a key ½ million times. That is hard enough, but we want to give meaning to those ½ million key presses, forming them into words and sentences. But the real challenge is to shape all of those into a work that is far more than just the sum of its parts. It isn’t an easy task. It is one thing to see the story in your head, but you have to find a way to convey that story to the reader.

The challenge is to show the reader the images you carry in your head, without bogging the reader down with too much description. You want to tell the reader what is going on, but in such a way that the reader discovers it for himself. That challenge, though hanging just out of reach like a carrot before a plow horse, is enough to drive you on, even when few people take interest in your work.