Why Do You Write?

The publishing world has changed radically. Fewer books are published every year. Yes, you can self-publish, but then you’re cast into a very large sea called Amazon, waving your SOS flag at book buyers.

Writing Tip for Today: So why write? What’s in it for you? Let’s talk about some reasons to write:

Catharsis is Good

They say writing is great therapy. You scribble out all your grievances, every hurt and slight. Mom didn’t like you best. Life handed you lemons. You’re still getting over that gut punch of a cancer diagnosis. If you can honestly say that you write to clean out your grudges or free yourself from past hurts, terrific.

Yet in my more than a decade of coaching and teaching, one thread always pops up. “Well, of course I want everyone to read my story,” students tell me. If they’re writing about overcoming hard stuff like illness or other tragedies, I hear, “If my story helps one person, it’ll all be worth it.”

All what will be worth it? The hours of chaining yourself to the keyboard? The revisions of revisions of revisions? The chase for a literary agent? The realization that you will need to self-publish, with all the expense, the grind of endless self-promotion and marketing, after all?

Weeding out Wannabes

The scenario I described above will scare off a lot of folks who thought writing a book would be simple. Writing a book is simple—just not easy. I once had a student who marched into class vowing to write the next Harry Potter blockbuster. “It can’t be that hard,” she said. After the first session, she never returned.

That student gave up because writing is hard. It takes practice—only around 10,000 hours—to master the writing craft. Writers need more than word processors and a Roget’s Thesaurus. You need determination, persistence and very thick skin. You need the discipline to show up when you don’t feel like writing. The ability to get back at it after receiving a scathing review or critique.

Without those habits, you will find ample excuses to do anything but write. Showing up—what I lovingly call BIC—butt in chair—goes much farther than big plans or even attendance at every writer’s conference you can find. Writing tends to sift out wannabes—those who want the rewards of writing without doing the work.

Rewards? What Rewards?

By now you might be wondering if you have the right stuff to be a writer. Yes, it’s not easy. But the rewards of writing (whether for publication or friends and family) tend to show up when you least expect. For instance, look back at writing you did when you first started. Now see how much your writing has changed as you learn, write, revise and write some more. Even if your work isn’t being auctioned off, you have the satisfaction of learning a difficult craft.

If you are still writing after rejection, you are showing a writer’s true grit. My rule is that I can mope for 24 hours. Then, it’s back in the saddle. And each time I’m turned down, I learn something. Rejection can teach writers to be resilient and to think more deeply and with more empathy than they ever thought they could.

Maybe the best reward of a writer’s life is the skill one develops in noticing the world around them. As you’re coached to write with sensory detail, you find it impossible to not notice details of the life all around you. Yes, some writers will always be chasing that blockbuster status.

But for most of us, writing will offer up a unique opportunity to say what we’ve been endowed to say, to say it with heart and to write our truths in a way no other art form can provide. As author Marge Piercy once said, “Work (writing) is its own cure. You have to like it better than being loved.” Write on people!

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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