Sunday, August 7, 2011

Writer's Lament

When discussing writing, there is always the likelihood of misunderstanding. Most people are in such a hurry they fail to read the words for meaning and context, instead skimming for the surface content. Over the years as I've written blogs, I've observed this many times. But I persist for those who seek more than the quick fix.

In the past few months, I have spent many hours considering writing (as opposed to publishing) and have finally reached some conclusions about where my writing life will go in the immediate future. As I say, this is my future--not some other writer's future--and my intentions. I don't seek encouragement or platitudes, but understanding.

Some of my readers are aware that I've been entering my royalty statements in a spreadsheet so that I may better understand both my sales and income. At this time, it is clear there is no real point in my writing for financial gain. No point at all.

Reluctantly, I had to decide if any reason still exists for me to spend hours sitting in front of a monitor, typing away at a story few people care to read. Let me say first that I appreciate and honor all readers who spent their hard earned dollars on my books. You cannot know what it means to me. I know very well how difficult it is to have to choose exactly which books to spend money on.

As I've mulled over my future, it occurred to me that I really haven't had any joy in writing. In the beginning, I did, but lately not so much. So. If there's no financial reward and no joy in writing, what am I doing?

Some writers write for pure financial gain. Monthly or yearly or weekly they produce a work--sometimes to contract--and they grimly churn out pieces through thick or thin because they like to eat or pay their bills. Other writers write stories, catching the most popular genre trains, moving on to a new genre when the old one dies. Some write quickly. Others struggle to finish a book in a year. All have their own reasons for sitting at the computer, pounding the keyboard day after day.

For me, it's always been for the pure joy of sharing the story. Money would have been nice, obviously. But I've always received more of a kick from a reader hunting me up to tell me they loved my story. Now royalties convey more information than how much money the author receives. They also tell you how many people like your writing so much they're willing to spend money buying your books. Clearly, this number is dwindling.

Yes, I understand all about the economy and the way publishing is changing and how much self-publishing is changing the market. I've spent many hours thinking about all of this. But the cold hard truth is this--if you have a compelling story to tell, people will buy your book, regardless of all those things. That's why some less-than-skilled authors sell, even when they clearly need a good editorial hand and a dictionary.

I'm a fairly decent writer. No, I'm no Shakespeare, but I know how to spell and write a complete sentence. The thing is, that isn't enough. I have no story to tell, at least not one that engages the reader. 

In the beginning, I had more stories than time. Now I have time, but no stories. It seems I must seek out the stories I have bubbling inside me. They're in there somewhere, just waiting for me to find them. When I do, then I'll have something to share. I don't know what it will be. It's possible I'll travel down an entirely different road.

Until then, I'm going to take some time off. I'll write my blog. And maybe some short stories as I learn more about my craft. And when I have a story to share--well then, I'll gladly let you know.



  1. Boy do I know how you feel. I've been contemplating this situation for the last few months. Yes, pregnancy took away the desire to write sex, but it's not just that. I've been tracking my sales on a spreadsheet since the beginning of the year and it's very depressing.
    I haven't had a story I wanted to write in a long time.
    The writing world will lose a fantastic storyteller if you never publish again, but as a writer I can totally understand your decision.

  2. All you can do is follow your heart. I hope to see new titles of yours again one day. Perhaps a collection of those short stories?

  3. As always you have nailed the situation very perceptively.
    It all boils down to the need to have fun. Or what you term "joy". For some that joy comes from paying the bills, for others in holding a book in their hands.
    May you find joy soon

  4. Sounds as if my muse took yours on that extended vacation! Relax; take some 'me' time and those characters will start speaking to you again!

    And book-buying has dwindled due to finances...used to buy 3 per week, but am down to 1 a month if I'm lucky.

  5. I think that taking time away makes a lot of sense. Do something that makes you smile.

  6. Anny, don't want to lose you as a writer but I understand completely. I have yet to determine the whys and wherefores - why do some books sell while other books, much better books, don't.
    It's a big mystery.

  7. I always said I would stay in this business as long as I have fun. Lord knows, I'm not in it for the money.

    I've taken time away from the game while I moved. Now that I'm getting settled, I'm going to see if I still have the groove. I think I do. If I don't, I've got a few stories finished I'd like to see launched, then I'll decide what the future holds.

    I hope you find the fun again, either in a novel, a short story, or your blog. Relax, kick back, and see where your muse takes you. There are many paths out there ...