When non-writers ask us why we write, our first response is usually something along the lines of “Because we have to.” And I think that’s true. Most of us have stories and characters floating around in our heads 24-7. Either we plop down in front of the keyboard and let them have their way, or we walk around in a daze talking to ourselves. (I’ve often wished for an on-off switch, like Data in Star Trek TNG, so I could give myself some much needed peace now and then.)
Our ultimate goal differs slightly from the why. We may write because we feel compelled to, but at the end of the day, we’d like to collect a paycheck for our efforts, to actually make a living from our writing the way doctors and lawyers and other professional people do. That’s easier said than done of course, especially in this economy. Employers in all fields are making do with fewer employees, so why would it be any different for publishers?
So yes, the current situation is gloomy at best, but that doesn’t mean we should give up, quit writing just because our books may never be sold to Knoph Doubleday and get read by the masses. Regardless of whether you sell fifty copies of your book or fifty-thousand, the point is you are leaving a little part of yourself behind. Something that proves to the rest of the world you were here. I like to call it the immortality factor.
Those of us who are parents have passed on proof of our physical existence, but unless our children become rich, famous, or both, we are merely a footnote to their actuality. If we have done our job as parents, our kids grow into productive adults with goals of their own. We can lay no claim to their accomplishments, we must produce our own success.
My oldest daughter, Carrie, and her husband, Mike, recently took a trip to the South. With my being the life-long Elvis fan I am, they stopped at Graceland to see what all the hoopla is about. While there, Carrie texted me that one of my paintings of Elvis I had done years ago for an art contest in Memphis was hanging on display. (I could tell she was excited because she used an exclamation point in her text.) She later reported that Elvis Presley, Richard Nixon, and the American Dream was also among the books on display.
A touch of immortality. A little piece of myself left behind. Something for my kids to feel proud of. Isn’t that really what our efforts are all about?