Almost all writers do other gainful employment to put food on their tables. It’s just a fact of this business, along with most of the arts. The old statistic was that 3% of published authors (meaning published by reputable houses) made their living writing. The other 97% had another job via which they ate.
And this was before the e-book explosion. I don’t know the statistic now, but it is less.
And now too it’s funny—writers spend as much time marketing their work as in creating it. That’s always been somewhat the case, but more true today than ever before.
So why the heck do we do all of this? What insane bug bit us long ago, injecting a creeping poison to snake its way through the bloodstream, keeping us up at night? Not to mention taking time away from family, friends, Labradors (okay, so mine are all around my feet as I write this. But insert any other hobby)? Why do we do the things we do?
We love to write. The play’s the thing, as the Bard would say. Or the novel, or short story, or memoir, or whatever it is one writes.
Sometimes my life gets out of kilter. That’s when I’m focused almost solely on the business of editing other people’s work (which I love) as the workload gets so backed up I just stop and do only that. I feel responsible to my writers. They’ve trusted me with their babies and are anxious to get them back. I know exactly what that feels like, so empathy causes me to stop my own and work on theirs.
Which is all well and good. IF that’s only for a time. Because if too much time passes before I get back to my stories, I get stopped up like a clogged drain. Dry. Irritable. Snappy. And trust me—the last thing any writer wants is his editor feeling that way!
No—you want your editor happy and satisfied. Blissful.
And the joy is in the writing.
It’s kinda tough to explain to those who aren’t infected with this virus. Probably like explaining how it felt to have Ebola to the rest of us. There just aren’t the right words (even for wordsmiths) to describe the feelings.
Writers just know they need to write like they need air.
I wrote this morning—well. I’m back into the new novel, transported every morning to a hot summer day in the middle of a Texas vineyard, as all sorts of mayhem arises. The characters keep taking me down roads I didn’t know existed, facing odds that would terrify the real me. But off we go, running against the wind, the very breath of the gods filling our sails. Exhilarating. Purposeful. Bringing the meaning of the ancient myths to bear.
Ah. There is nothing like it. Nothing in the known world, anyway. At least for me.
As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke said: “Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.”
As would many of us.
Why do you write?