Posted by Sheila Connolly

Our weekend guest blogger Kate Flora pointed out a few realities that we as writers do our best to ignore.

I'm the newbie in this bunch of bloggers–the only one who has never seen a book of her own in print. It's something I'm looking forward to, and apparently I had better enjoy it, because that may be the high point of the whole writer's experience. After that it's going to be a long downhill slide, spending time and effort and money on promotion, wondering how the sales numbers are doing and whether the editor will renew the contract. It took me over five years of determined effort to get a book of mine accepted by an editor, and those years were full of rejection heaped upon rejection. That's the way the publishing world works these days. I don't claim any special credit, apart from sheer stubbornness, and I know how many talented people never make it this far. They give up, and who can blame them? Who needs to actively look for frustration in their lives?

So why do we write? When I decided to start writing, after passing through several varied careers, I experienced a sort of Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland moment: let's write a book! Swell! And of course my efforts were going to save the, pay my daughter's tuition bills. Did I mention I was naive? Yup. Not that I ever doubted that I could write that book (although I had never tried) and sell it (ditto). No problem.

Obviously I learned how wrong I was. The writing part was the easiest–I really loved that. The selling part was not.

So why did I–along with so many other writers–keep at it? On a purely practical front, I had no job (after working most of my adult life) and I had a husband with an income adequate to support the household. Would I have given up a job to write? No. But since my job was snatched from under me, I decided to use the time well. Is my husband happy with this situation? Not really. He admires books (more than the writers thereof, whatever that means), but he'd really rather I was bringing home a steady paycheck. Part of me agrees with him, but the other parts says I'm having too much fun writing to stop now.

Since I embarked on this uncertain journey, I have observed that when you tell people you're a writer, they assume you make good money. Funny thing: in the great majority of cases this is not true, unless you're Nora Roberts or John Grisham. From what I read, a small percentage of writers make a living wage, sort of. The rest of us rely on spouses and relatives, or spend our days at a "real" job and snatch writing time wherever we can.

So, again, why do we do it? We may say in half-jest, "to shut up the voices in our head." Or because we create a character and we can't bear to see him or her die away. It may be due in some small part to the gleam in other people's eyes when you tell them you're an author.

But I think mostly it's because we love books, and we want to give other people the pleasure that reading gives us. We choose to believe that we know enough about life to have something worth saying, and that we can set it down on paper (or pixels) in a way that makes sense to others, that somehow touches them. Producing a book makes us a small part of something larger, and gives us a tiny claim on something permanent.

But mostly we do it because we can't not do it. It's sure not for the money, so it must be love.

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Comment by Sheila Connolly on September 26, 2007 at 12:24am
We are certainly optimists, right? Maybe that's why we write fiction: we can make the ending come out the way we want it to. And congrats on getting royalties! I'll look for your books.
Comment by Charlotte Williamson on September 25, 2007 at 1:55am
Amen and Hallelujah You took the words right out of my mouth. I've been lucky enough to have two books published without an agent. Like you, I spent years querying publishers and agents to no avail. Persistence pays off. Although, with my third book, I'm going to be looking for an agent. I get my royalties regular as clockwork, and they're nothing to brag about, but the third book is going to be the "the one."

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