Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Remember Why You Write

Think about kids. When they are young and out playing with their friends, they play to just play. They dance without caring what other people think. They run with the others across the play field and are not concerned about who gets there first. Sure, they might scream "Last one there is a rotten egg," but, when that last kid comes across the finish line, he or she is not ridiculed about being the last. They move on to the next game. They are loving being a kid

But then they grow up. But then they have parents, teachers, friends and coaches who say things such as, "You know Billy, you could probably becomes a professional basketball player." "You know Sally, with that speed you have, you can probably make it to the Olympics with backstroke." We have parents who start to remove that element of fun from the thing that kids loved to do. Think Peter Pan here. They grew up and left Neverland.

I started thinking about this with writing. Why did you start writing? What was it that made you sit down and put a pen to paper, or fire up that word processing program and start typing "It was a dark and stormy night"? The odds are, you had a story to tell. There was a thrill in creating characters and putting them into situations just to see if they could get out of it. If it was a romance, you played out through your characters those dreams you had of your first crush.

But then you grew up. Along the way the focus of the writing turned from writing those "stories of the heart" to the "stories that you can sell."

My wife's grandfather used to be a great blackjack player. I never had a chance to meet him, but I have heard this story from several on her side of the family. Apparently he had a rule. The moment he started thinking, "I can make up that lost money on this next hand" he got up from the table. The game was over for the evening. Why? He was not more focused on the money and not on the game.

I do fear that the publishing world might be too focused right now on the money and not so much on the craft. When I say this, I do say the publishing world and not just the publishers. Obviously, the editors and the agents are looking for the story that is going to sell. We can start there, but we cannot exclude the writers from this equation. I do see far more authors more concerned with making the money and not enough about putting the quality writing out there.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not saying to throw out the concept of the business model of publishing, regardless of the route writers want to take to get that book to the bookshelf. This is a business and with a business, the model does say to do this to make money. But maybe we need to consider thinking more about the quality of the writing.

And for those of you who have not gotten published yet, I want to remind you to think of why you write. Remember the joy of writing and stick to that. And when those around you start pushing you to publish, or to pitch to those editors and agents, look to your heart. You will know when it is time to move on. Until then, keep playing with that writing.


  1. Hey now, knock off the backstroke jokes (smiles). Ro is fast and he'd better do something with his speed besides play around in the pool (more smiles). Not too worried, though, he loves his backstroke, he loves working on perfecting it.

  2. As always, a valuable post with such a good reminder. Thanks again.