Musings on the Craft of Writing

►Sisyphus’ Pen

Want to get rich quick?  Be famous with a life of ease?  Then being an author is a terrible move for you.

    ~~What the outsider think the writer's life is like...

~~What the outsiders think the writer’s life is like…

Virtually all of the money which makes it into a writer’s pocket goes to a tiny fraction of the authors.  For every Stephen King and John Grisham out there, there are thousands of serious writers who will earn little or nothing. If you want to get rich, then go get a job that pays well.  Force yourself to go get a marketable degree.  Become an expert criminal.  Go invent something.  But don’t be an author for the cash, because that’s as stupid as playing the lottery.

    ~~What the writer knows to be the writer's life.

           ~~What the writer knows it’s really like.

Actually, it’s worse than the lottery. True, the chances of scoring a lotto jackpot are absurdly low, but at least with the lotto it took you $1 and 30 seconds.  (You threw that money away, but you were probably going to waste the dollar anyway.)

Writing to get rich is worse because (while your chances are not quite as bad as 1 in 175 million) you’re spending years on this novel, have stressed and cried, and have lost a hundred hours of sleep in order to buy that one ticket.

And this is the great divider of those who write for the dream of a magical jackpot and those who write because they are compelled by the love of storytelling.

The true author knows that it’s a life of discipline and endurance.  It’s a lifetime spent learning the craft, focusing all of your mental energies and running over the same patch of grass hundreds of times until each blade is lying at exactly the right height and angle.  And it keeps demanding more, for after you’ve poured your talents into that long labor of love you must either work to self-market your own publication (where the statistics say that you will eventually make <$500) or you run the gauntlet of agent/Publishing House submissions, where the overwhelming answer remains ‘no thanks.’

     ~~Been through the QL and Submission process yet?  It's kinda like this...

      ~~Been through the QL and Submission process yet? It’s kinda like this…

And this is the reality that an author must face up to.  But while that sounds grim, it’s not the end of the line.  The true authors who keep rolling that boulder up the mountain will continue to improve.  As the years pass of digging in the caves, we will eventually hit pockets of rare minerals, perhaps even gold.

At least that’s what I am telling myself.  It’s quite possible that all I have done since 2006 and all that I will do for the rest of my life is for naught as it pertains to getting mass-published.  But it doesn’t really matter.  I have little choice but to obey my psyche and keep writing stories, and to keep perfecting them to make the best novels possible.

That’s my final definition of a true author: Someone who will keep writing even if they never hit the jackpot.










7 responses

  1. Hillary Leftwich

    Great advice, Daniel! You hit the mark on this one.

    December 27, 2013 at 9:06 pm

  2. Mine, too, re your definition. Happy New Year!.

    December 27, 2013 at 9:20 pm

  3. Tonia

    Every writer enjoys an intrinsic reward from composing what his mind creates, regardless of sales or not.

    I hope you find the best resources to help you arrive at publishing success. I have spoken to a couple of published writers …

    I wish you success in all your writing endeavors, Daniel. 🙂

    December 27, 2013 at 10:26 pm

  4. graceh13

    What matters most is that you find joy in doing it. It’s not only for the money but for the pleasure and freeing feeling it gave us after we write. Keep writing Daniel! I suspend reading “After Life”, as I am waiting for the paperback edition. 🙂 Good evening!

    December 28, 2013 at 7:05 pm

  5. The lottery ticket and grass metaphors really hit home. Despite the unlikely possibility of success, we keep writing because we love it–we are compelled and massochistic. 🙂

    December 29, 2013 at 2:33 am

  6. Ah so true and yet… I weep.

    December 29, 2013 at 10:38 pm

  7. Seems so fantastically cruel and true. But we write because we have to write. You take your rewards where you can get them.

    January 1, 2014 at 10:02 pm

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