Why bother writing?

Over on one of the writer’s groups I frequent, there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle. (It’s what I get for opening my mouth.)

One lady was offering tips on emarketing–optimizing SEO on Amazon, using Twitter and Facebook, all that stuff. Another lady was lamenting how none of those things has helped her sell any of her books. In fact, she lamented it for so long that I got annoyed and asked, “So why bother writing at all?”

Well, it got the whole group pondering themselves, wondering why they write if it’s been statistically proven that new authors don’t make money off their books. Self-pub, small press or large press–very, very few authors make money writing books. It’s why there’s all the jokes about the starving writer typing away in a barren apartment.

Here’s another way of looking at it:


Don’t sell the bike shop, Orville.

So why write if you’re not going to make money off it right off the bat? Easy. Do it because you love it.

I’ll say it again.


If you don’t love it, find something else that you love. Life is short and there’s no point in spending hours doing something you don’t enjoy.

Someone else mentioned wanting to write a bestseller and they’re so frustrated they’re not famous yet.

Let me tell you a little story about that.

Once upon a time there was a girl who started writing fanfics about Sonic the Hedgehog. They were weird, and daring, and reinterpreted the universe’s elements in surprising ways. People either loved them or hated them, and said so.

The girl opened up her website to fan submissions of art and fanfics. Over the eight years the site operated, it became a community hub. She was moderately famous. Her fanfics were the equivalent of bestsellers.

And it sucked. So many people made demands of her time and attention about website things. People got mad when she didn’t answer fanmail. People wrote terrible things about her on other sites because she tried to keep her website G-rated. Finally she threw in the towel and faded into obscurity, where it was much more peaceful.

Having a bestseller and being famous is way, way overrated. I did it because I loved it. When the torment became greater than the enjoyment, I closed it down. What does it profit a girl to gain the world and lose her soul? Nothing, that’s what.


10 thoughts on “Why bother writing?

  1. I don’t quite see those as the same things. Well, at all, actually. Writing fan-fiction–something you know going into can never earn you a dime–and trying to start a paid career as a novelist are very different beasts.

    I started writing because I wanted to be an author, because I want to sell books, to do this as a career. Yes, I love writing. But that doesn’t mean I’m content to go nowhere with it or do it just for sheer fun.

    Say I wanted to be a lawyer or a doctor or a teacher. I would love those practices if they were my chosen fields. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t bemoan not finding a paying job in them if that were the case. I wouldn’t run off and happily practice medicine/law or teach for free just 4theluv.

    Writing for you may not be a *career* choice. I applaud your ability to just love writing and not ever worry about becoming famous/successful at it. Maybe your brush with fan-fic fame was enough to turn you off that road. But we all go into this for different reasons. I don’t feel l’m losing my soul at all. I am frustrated with my sales numbers, but that does’t mean I’m going to quit writing. It just means I’m frustrated with *that part* of the journey.


  2. Kat: It depends on your definition of success. Your goal is making money. Mine was to get readers and lots of reviews. I achieved my success goal and it wasn’t worth it. Just sayin’, sometimes the gold is only pyrite.


  3. Yes, I agree, it is about your goal. Although I wouldn’t classify mine as “making money.” I see that as a part of it, one piece that makes writing a “career” vs a hobby. But it’s not that monetary gain is my primary objective. I want readers, I want people to love my story world, I want to be the person on the other side of the book, the one who makes other people love reading the way authors like Madeline L’Engle made me love it. All those goals are somewhat tied together for me, though.


  4. I think doing anything whether it be washing dishes or taking care of children what ever you do it should always be for the glory of God. Writing just like any gift can be a gift or a curse. You can through your words build up or tear down. I went to see a very famous author speak. In her class she taught she started writing because she knew she could do a better job and she had a story to tell. She is very famous and she sells lots and lots of hard backs every year. Another author I went to see talked about the reason she started writing was her husband messed around on her and she decided that instead of plotting ways to kill him she would just turn that into novels. Which she did very successfully. I think that as with Harper Lee she had a story she told it well. She wrote one book. I think writing should be telling a story, telling it well, and loving what you do. An like the Nike commercial says, ” Just Do It.” I think that if you are happy being and doing what you like, well, then I think you are a successful writer.


  5. Had a similar experience with giving up on writing in a certain fandom because the “torment became greater than the enjoyment.” It’s not that I’ll never write fanfic again, but since it’s just for enjoyment, if it’s not enjoyable anymore, why would I continue?

    I’ve made incredibly small amount of money from original fiction compared to the hours put in. But I don’t think I’ll ever quit. I love it and have since I was a child. I don’t know where the journey will take me though. 🙂


  6. This is a fantastic blog post, NR. I feel like I want to write a blog post about this too.

    We all right for different reasons, but I feel that those who write because they love it end up with better books and better attitudes toward writing. I really don’t expect my books to become famous, and honest,y I don’t really expect to make any money off them. But if that was the whole point of writing, I never would be writing the kind of stuff I’m writing. Because I know my stuff is not really geared toward the main stream.

    I feel bad though, that you left the public Sonic fanworld because of people harassing you! Though that’s how fame goes I suppose.


  7. I’ve “told myself stories” since I was a kid. I love writing! When I write fiction (mostly fantasy) I do it for others as well as myself. I never stop writing. If, like now, I’m roadblocked in fiction, I switch to nonfiction.
    Creating & expanding my Narenta fantasy world began as personal enjoyment. Then I wanted to share. Eventually I realized–or thought I realized–that God wanted me to share my joy in knowing Him with others. But sharing is key.
    It took years of revision & seeking a publisher before Seabird & Earthbow saw print. All along I imagined what it would be like: a mix of positive & negative feedback, answering questions, being inspired by the people who asked them, kicking around ideas, sharing tantalizing tidbits of what happens next with readers waiting for the next book, etc. Money? Never thought about it.
    I never envisioned that virtually no one would buy my books! I suppose LGG members & friends wonder why I don’t do some –marketing–! I get that & I did try if not very well. I used to post regularly at my blog. Entries drew just a couple or no responses. As it should be –my life is beyond b-o-r-i-n-g. ;-P How does a writer market with no “raw materials”?
    Anyway, I still very much want to be read. Writing for an audience of one sucks.


  8. Love. this.

    I like how you quit when it was no longer serving your purpose. That took nerve, and I wonder if I could quit something that was merely overwhelming and not fully destructive.

    But I’m not there yet, where I’d need to make that call.
    And I guess I’ve done it in other areas of my life, before..


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