There are more reasons to write then there are writers. Yes, you read that right. I was going to say “as many reasons as writers” but that’s not the truth of it at all. I write for more than one reason and I am sure many of my fellow writers do to.
Some write for fame or fortune. Many of the greatest writers concur that this is a bad reason to write. Fame and fortune come only to a handful of writers. A quick look at writer’s bios will show that even many of the best known authors of history had day jobs for much of their lives.
Even those who have attained both fame and fortune will tell you that’s not why they write. For one thing, fame and fortune take their own sweet time coming. If they are your only motivation, you are likely to give up long before you get there.
I would love to see at least a little bit of fame and fortune in my life. I don’t have grand designs on being a billionaire or winning some huge literary awards, but I would like to be able to support myself as a writer some day.
So why do I write?
My YA writing is written for the teenager I used to be and to the young LGBT people out there. If even one LGBT kids reads my stuff and feels life might be worth it after all, then I’m happy. I would gladly give those books away for free. Selling them to adults is more a fundraiser to help me connect with the teens then a business venture.
My motives for writing science fiction and fantasy are even simpler. I love those genres. I love reading them and I love writing them. I am happy just to be a midlist author contributing to the genre I love.
But at the end of the day my reason for writing has become both simpler and more obscure. I have discovered that when I write, other aspects of my life become less soul sucking.
I work on an acute mental health ward. I love my job — as a job. As a career, as a purpose for living, it sucks. Mental health is a fascinating field. Working with the mentally ill is always an adventure, the people are among the most diverse and interesting portion of our population.
But day to day interactions with personality disorders can be draining. Many chronic mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, can be managed but not cured. Relapse is a part of addiction. Diseases like bipolar disorder and major depression are often recurrent. As a result we often see the same patients over and over and treatment might be two steps forward and one step back. Mental health workers need to cling to small victories and let many backslides roll off their backs.
When I write regularly, I float above the stresses of my job. After all it’s just my job. It earns me money so I can get by while I write. It’s good, as jobs go, and I enjoy the work.
When I don’t write, suddenly my creative contribution to the world comes down to whether or not this alcoholic makes it through detox, or this schizophrenic stays on his meds. If that’s the only contribution I am making to the world, the job becomes a soul sucking drain on my life. I quickly come to hate it.
The same dynamic applies, to a lesser extent with other aspects of life. I love my house. It’s perfect for me. But am I proud to have owned a house? Is this my legacy?
I love my son. But do I want to be one of those parents who live vicariously through their children’s accomplishments? No way.
I think most writers struggle with motivation at times and I am no exception. Writing is hard work. Writing a novel requires sustained work over a long period of time. But the toughest part of being an author is that most of the work is required upfront, with no guarantee that it will ever lead to success.
What keeps me coming back is this; if I gave up writing today what would happen? The answer is that my life would slowly be drained away by a million everyday stressors. Stressors that for whatever reason, writing seems to make go away.
If I knew for absolute certain that I would never achieve any level of financial success or fame from my writing, I’d still write. I might reprioritize some things, but I would still write. And I think most other writers would to.
That said, I would still like to have financial success and would be honored if you purchased any one of my books. 😉