I write for a living. It’s not a lucrative vocation. The percentage of writers who are financially successful is as miniscule as the number of amateur athletes who make it to the pros or the number of aspiring actors who become famous enough to attract the paparazzi. But people still play sports sans spectators or sport about in plays that are so far off-Broadway it would take the Hubble Telescope to watch them. Sure, these folks would love to be discovered and celebrated but they’d settle for being respected by their peers and solvent.
Writing is either in your genes or it isn’t. I started a personal journal in 1969 and became a professional journalist in 1990. I’ve made a stop-start living as a wordsmith ever since. If I’m typical of the breed, I can tell you that writers are motivated by love, joy and faith.
Writers write because we love words and their mesmerizing effect on others. A well-turned phrase is a source of mutual pleasure. As Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word aptly spoken (or written) is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” A powerful story is like a poignant song; a memorable book like a masterful symphony. They bring author and audience together in an intimate embrace of mind and emotion.
Writers write for the masochistic joy of it. We have a compulsion to expose ourselves on screen and paper in hopes others will be interested in what we have to say. Most of what we put out is ignored or rejected. But when we get a favorable response, it’s like praise to an insecure child. We long to repeat and intensify the experience.
Writers write by faith. We tenuously believe that someday, somewhere, someone will read our words and complete the circle of communication. I’m working on a children’s book now that may not be read by anyone for years, if ever. It’s the third volume in a series every publisher I’ve approached has rejected. I’m also hatching ideas for a follow-up series to my Matterhorn the Brave books, even though the publisher it took me ten years to find recently dropped the series.
When I got cancer, I started this blog to share my experience with family, friends and strangers. It takes valuable time and produces zero income. So why do it?
It’s an expression of love, joy and faith.
(If you want an entire book on the subject, one of the best is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Not being a horror fan, I haven’t read any of King’s novels—of which he’s sold over a quarter billion—but I resonate with his wisdom and wit.)