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Write Because You Love It

Thursday, April 5, 2012

As I travel around and meet readers, invariably I run across someone who says something like this: “I think I could be a writer too. I have some great ideas for stories just simmering. Besides how hard could it be? You just write the book, send it to publishers, and make lots of money.”

Maybe they don’t say those exact words. But often, when they’re asking me questions about publishing, I know that’s what they’re thinking—that writing stories can’t be all that hard, getting published is a piece of cake (either traditionally or self-publishing), and in the end all writers are making lots of money.

But those of us who are in the trenches of the publishing industry know the hard realities of the writing life and of the publishing industry:

*Crafting stories is difficult, and getting them to sound like your two year old didn’t write them is even harder.

*Having a successful publication experience takes hours and hours and hours of work and there are no guarantees of success or sales.

*Most authors start off making less than minimum wage compared to all the time they put into their books.

When I meet people who don’t have a realistic view of writing and publishing, I don’t sit them down and give them a long lecture about the realities that await them. I don’t burst their happy bubble with stories about how hard it was for me.

And I don’t pull out my tax forms for the past several years to show them how slowly the income trickles in—even with books that have had good sales with a large CBA publisher.

Instead, I listen graciously, bite my tongue, and finally wish them all the best.

I know that eventually, if they try to write a book they’ll understand that putting the right words on paper isn’t quite as easy it looks. In fact, they’ll come to realize the truth of these quotes:

*Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

*What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure. ~Samuel Johnson

I know that eventually when they get ready to publish their books, they’ll realize how overwhelming and intimidating publication and marketing are whether they publish themselves or traditionally.

And I know that they’ll eventually see their own sales figures (if they make it to publication and beyond), and they’ll realize what an accomplishment it is to get anyone besides family and friends to buy our books.

The truth is, anyone who sticks out a writing career long enough will have to take that writing career off the pedestal, stop glamorizing it, and start seeing it for what it is—a business.

I’ve had to look at my writing career much the same way others might look at starting a small business. We have to begin at the bottom and work our way up. We have to put in long hours with little compensation while we’re in the process of expanding. Often it takes years before we build a base of happy customers and finally begin to see some monetary profit.

In summary, what I want to tell aspiring writers who have that book inside them they want to write is: Go for it. You don’t need me or anyone else to talk you out of a writing career because of how difficult it may be someday.

But make sure you’re writing that book for the right reasons . . .

Make sure you love writing.

Because ultimately that deep, passionate love of telling stories is what's going to get you through all the difficulties in the days to come. Without a love of writing, what’s the point?

What about you? Are you writing for the love it? What keeps you going through the hard times?

34 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Hello Jody, I hope the blogoverse and its inhabitants are treating you nicely today?

    Personally, my blood boils when someone outside of your sphere of skill/hobby/profession makes a broad, and mainly, uneducated statement such as, 'How hard can your job/hobby/skill set be?' and then proceed to announce that they feel they could easily do the same as if it were as easy as breathing itself.

    Years ago I qualified as a graphic designer, and I'd boil inside when people would say, 'Oh, that isn't so hard. I can do that with my pc and Windows Clip Art' - fingers twitch, hand yearns to slap them about the head, but I resist.
    And now I've changed professions in a diverse leap, to being a sports massage therapist and personal trainer, I still encounter that same old drivel.

    Ignorance is bliss when you are 16 and have your life ahead of you and everyday is an adventure (or used to be when I was 16), but as an adult, ignorance is just that, ignorance.

    Hope my babbling wasn't too downcast?

    Kind regards,

    Mark K

    PS: deleted due to silly typos I missed before posting :)

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  3. Another great post, Jody. When someone does something really well, like you, they make it look easy.
    I agree it's not. It's a lot of work, whether you have a publisher or not.
    I wear all the hats, make all the decisions and reap the rewards. The old saying is 'do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life' I do love it, wouldn't do anything else.
    I am an Indie. I make a good living at this now. Once I figured out how to do things, that took a year. Now I am selling 3000 books a month and get paid monthly.
    Yup, work long hours some days,but I do love it!
    Have a great day, Jody.

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  4. As tempted as I am to make a sarcastic comment when people say stuff like that, I usually manage to say 'oh, really?' and change the subject! I think writers get this kind of reaction so much because most people can write in the literal sense - as in putting words on paper- and the actual work of writing is intabgible and invisible.

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  5. Yes, I love writing.

    But I had the same crazy idea that it was easy. Now, I just write when I am inspired. Trying to run after the book deal in the beginning puts to much pressure on you. Do what you love and it truly never feels like work. I agree and love that statement.

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  6. Being able to write is a hard won skill for me. I made a decision never to take it for granted, or be lazy, or squander my time. That's part of what keeps me going. I love storytelling, and that's the main thing that keeps me going. But the day to day writing can be very hard. If I didn't love it, and my characters, I would certainly choose something else to fill my time. I've been crafting novels for twenty years, and it is still the most challenging task I've ever set my mind to. The rewards are equivalent though.

    Jody, I commend you for your self control in not bursting those happy bubbles!

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  7. Good morning, everyone! And happy Thursday!

    Mark, yes the inhabitants of the blogoverse are treating me well (That sounds very Sci-fi!). :-)

    Love of story-telling is what keeps me going too, Lori. I love this quote by Toni Morrison: "If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." I write the books I want to read! :-)

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  8. Beautiful post! As I tell my friends, who worry about encouraging people to get into this biz because it's so darn hard: Let your success be an inspiration to them to get through the hard work to get there.

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  9. I suppose writing is considered one of the
    'glamour' professions like acting, broadcasting
    or modelling. If you talk to anyone in these
    and similar fields you usually discover that
    for the few 'red carpet' moments there
    is a lot of work, aggravation and frustration
    in the background.

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  10. Hello, Jody. I am so thankful I came across such a great network of authentic Christian authors who tell it like it is, but do it with encouragement and grace. I've had a love for writing my whole life and a boat load of book ideas, but until I starting following author and agent blogs a couple months ago, I had no idea what to expect from the publishing world. It is daunting, but challenging and I know it's something I am being called to do, so I will roll up my sleeves and keep at it.

    Your blog post is similar to one I just wrote last week, but the subject matter is different! My sister just had her first baby and, as a mother of four myself, I wanted to give her all the parenting details. I kept my mouth shut, however, because I know she'll have to live it to learn it, just like an aspiring author will have to wade through the trenches to grasp the writer's life.

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  11. Gabrielle, SO TRUE about the parenting analogy!! LOL I do the same thing with excited new moms. I try to stay encouraging. They'll learn soon enough how hard parenting is! :-)

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  12. Jody, I'm reminded of a story I've heard Jerry Jenkins tell. He was having lunch with a friend who was a psychologist. His friend told him that he was thinking of doing some writing on the side. Jerry said, "Really? I was thinking of doing some counseling on the side." His friend responded, "But you don't have any training for that." Jerry said, "Exactly."

    I've always enjoyed writing, but as I get further into my novel, I'm finding that I really do love it.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

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  13. Great story, Meghan! I'll have to tuck Jenkin's response away for future use! :-)

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  14. So true, Jody!! What've you hit on is kind of a "rites of passage" for writers. :-)

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  15. Love this post, Jody.

    I've always been a writer, but just started writing fiction (well, I wrote fiction when I was a kid...this is the first time I've written novels!). It. is. hard. work. It's so subjective. So hard to know what "works" and what doesn't. What works for someone might not work for others. So the business of writing can be "unsteady." It can be frustrating.

    But I still love it. And hopefully, that'll carry me through.

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  16. Thank you, Jody,
    This was just what I needed to hear today. I'm in way below minimum wage status with my writing, but I love writing and couldn't stop if I tried.
    I have been reading your blog for months. I am on vacation this week, so I bought copies of The Preacher's Bride and The Doctor's Lady. I hope you love writing for a long time.

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  17. Don't forget this one: "I would like to write a book, I just don't have time."

    Yes, writing does take a tremendous amount of time, but I have a theory that if you really want to write, you'll make time. And also, if you do find yourself with a large chunk of free time (I hear that happens occasionally), if you don't really want to write, you won't. There are TV shows to watch, Facebook to check, blogs to read (ahem)... :)

    Those days when the words just fly onto the page are so rare. Most of the time, I feel like I'm just slogging along.

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  18. I wish more people understood what it's like to spend hours going excruciatingly over details in your story to get them just right. A LOT thinks it's easy to write and though, I too, don't try and discourage them, I know they'll learn the realities soon enough.

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  19. I have a lot of people who come to me saying they have a great idea for a book that they'll write some day. I've had others come and tell me they have a great idea that they want me to write. And I can't help but think most of them don't realize how difficult it actually is. If you don't love writing, it really isn't worth it. You'd be better off doing a job where you get to have your evenings and weekends completely free to spend with your family. But I love it, so here I am :)

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  20. Jody, I'm applauding from the balcony back here! Well said. After having a few things published, people seem prone to ask me when I can quit my "day job." Well, not in the forseeable future. But that's okay. It gives me the time to properly learn this wonderful world of writing and building the platform/audience to pursue it full time. Great post!

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  21. Man, so true. All of it! A love of writing and a willingness to work your butt off and I think anyone can get pretty far :)

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

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  22. Thanks, Jody, for these great reminders!! Along with your good words, you reminded me of something I've long been telling myself: until I'm willing to put in the same number of hours that my son puts into his small business, I won't succeed.

    Thanks for sharing directly from your heart to ours!!

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  23. Loving all of your comments, today! Thanks for joining in the discussion everyone!

    And Mary, thank you for buying my books this week while you're on vacation! Hope you'll enjoy them!

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  24. Jody, I'm about two years into this writing journey, and the more I learn, the more I realize how much MORE there is to learn. But I have also realized that I love it all, and I can't give up now. I've been so happy to find that although the process of getting published will be difficult, the writing community is very encouraging and supportive. Thanks for this post!

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  25. Jody, I can't even imagine what it takes to write books like yours!! The research, characters, story line... Awesome!

    Happy Easter!

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  26. Thanks, Jody. I agree wholeheartedly. You gotta love to do if you are going to do it well. Not only that, but when you are passionate about writing - publication is not the ultimate goal, although it is certainly the dream. The ultimate goal is pouring out what's on your heart and finding out that it changed a life, lifted a head or encouraged someone to take one more step. Cheryl Dale www.climbingoutofthevalley.wordpress.com

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  27. Oh, I love when people think I sneeze and a novel comes out. I do it as a labor of love. I can't help but do it. I'm writing even when I don't MEAN to be writing. :)

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  28. I'm absolutely in it for the love of it. Not the initial draft, that is clunky and wordy, but the later drafts, where the whole thing begins to gel. Those later drafts make me proud, and I love it when I smile or cry when reading my own work. THAT'S why I do it. Thanks for the inspiration, Jody!

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  29. I write because I love it. And it might sound weird, but I think it's good for me to write, and good for anyone who loves writing to write. Loving it and doing it make me better at it and that's part of what keeps me going when it gets rough; with every revision of my manuscript, I'm improving both as a writer and as an editor :)

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  30. I was one of those people who thought that if an author had a book in Barnes and Noble, they must be making a lot of money. Then I became a published author, a life long dream, and sadly found out the reality. But that's okay, being a published author and making a difference in people's lives no matter how many, is something that I am proud of and treasure.
    I keep writing, I just love it. I have 3 books published and one more on the way. Reading and writing will always be in my soul and my first loves!

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  31. It is so important to be able to write and enjoy it. There is so much of writing that just takes time - whether it's finding confidence in yourself, finishing a draft, editing, publishing...to do all that and not enjoy it...wow, what torture! I definitely enjoy writing. To me, it's fun...I enjoy the characters, the ideas...I've even taken to writing fiction on my blog (not stuff I care to publish, just stuff that's for fun) and that's even fun. Make it fun, I say. Otherwise, you have a long, dull road ahead of you!

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  32. harder when shopping online because not all books have excerpts available for browsing. bubblegum casting

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  33. Oh, I love when people think I sneeze and a novel comes out. I do it as a labor of love. I can't help but do it. I'm writing even when I don't MEAN to be writing. bubblegum casting

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  34. I'm still not enjoying it to its full potential. I'll have to sink some money into a good gaming rig, before I can enjoy the best of its graphics Ungagged

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