For the Love of It

Do you love it? Do you love writing? When you can’t, when time or life or whatever prevents you from accessing your pen & paper, your keyboard, your microsoft word file, do you hunger for the moment you’ll have the chance again? Is telling a story, crafting a sentence, communicating a thought, an idea, an image, a powerful emotion, a truth, is it in your blood? Is it part of the fabric of your being?

Then maybe you should try to be writer.

If not, then maybe you shouldn’t.

I don’t want to discourage people with a passion, which is why I started where I did, but I want to be candid and realistic. Writing well involves time, discipline and hard work. Yes, writers are often glamorized on TV or in movies as living lives of veritable leisure, but few support themselves on writing alone. So, if you’re not in it for the love of it, think about something else.

Even breaking through and getting something you’ve written into print isn’t a guarantee of writing happiness & bliss. Your chance to get into print again might well depend on how well your first book sells. I’ve heard it said that the only thing less appealing to a publisher than an unpublished writer is a published writer whose first book(s) didn’t sell. I don’t know how true that is, but we need to remember that the bookmaking business is a business. Sorry to be blunt. Sorry to burst romantic bubbles. Sorry to rain on your art for art’s sake parade. But, if this is a world you want to be a part of, then a simple truth needs to be faced. If a publisher is going to invest time, money, intellectual capital and reputation on a book, they need to believe there will be a return on those investments. Period.

Though I published some smaller articles in a reference work in the 90s, I officially date my becoming a professional writer to the signing of my first book contract in early ’02. Looking back at six years working in the industry, even if all with one press and one main editor and one agent, I recognize that it is a tricky and imperfect world. Sometimes dreams are realized. Sometimes they’re dashed. Enduring the emotional highs and lows is made much easier by the realization that whether the royalty check is big or small, whether your publisher supports you well or not, whether your books make waves or ripples, that writing, that telling a story, is a function of who you are.

If you love it, do it. If you don’t? Then find something that you do.

9 thoughts on “For the Love of It

  • So true. Which might explain why one of my favorite quotes is as follows:

    “I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.”
    ~Isaac Asimov

  • I have to agree completely and utterly. I just finished a 30,000 word novella in four days—I couldn’t tear myself away from the computer. Work, studies, my other interests and duties, none of it mattered anymore. I was exhausted when I finished, but it felt so good to write that last sentence and put “The End” on it. I missed some important things during those four days, but it was well worth it. For me, writing is a passion, not a hobby. Once I get an idea locked in my brain, it’s all I can do to work it out, plan the story, before setting fingers to keyboard. (Not quite the image I was looking for, but accurate nonetheless.) Great post, LB, it’s got a lot of wisdom.

  • Dear L.B.,
    My sister and I have kinda started writing a book.We have 14 pages that we have written off of an old smith corona.Do you think you have to be a certain age to write books or poems?My sister and I are avid readers and we are 13 year old twins.I also love your books and have read them all.
    Benjamin Chavers age:13

  • I think, Benjamin, that any age is a good age to write stories and poems, so good for you and your sister. If your question was really more about publishing books then writing them, I’d say that in general, it takes a lot of practice to be able to write well enough to publish your stories, so usually authors are older when they get their first book published. So, keep up the good work and who knows where it will lead?

  • I would write if I was stranded on a remote island and all I had was a stub of charcoal and a flat stone! I’m still a teen, but I KNOW that I was meant to be a writer. I couldn’t stop writing even if I wanted to.

    I hope to get something published before I turn 21, or around then, but even if I don’t, I’ll keep writing. I’m reading all sorts of books and blogs about writing and also a lot of great fiction. And I’m writing constantly. Ditto to Heather- writing is exciting!

    Thanks for the awesome post, Mr. Graham! I’ve been reading your books like crazy, and I recently discovered your blog, so you might see me around more.

  • It’s fair enough to set your own goals, but if you want something published by the age of 21, you should probably be thinking about literary magazines at school or things like that.

    More important, I think, than how soon you get published, is the quality of your writing and taking time to develop it. Think of a writing career as a long distance race, not a sprint. Writing is a craft, so keep doing what you’re doing – reading good writing and writing yourself – to develop your talent.

    And then, when you feel up to it, try to get some real feedback. Feedback from someone who will tell you what isn’t going well in your writing, not just someone who will say generic, nice things because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.

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