When you start off writing, as I did, coming from a completely different field, you’re pretty susceptible to what other writers tell you. And so you should be. Who better to guide you along the long and tortuous journey to Authordom than other published writers, right? So I did my due diligence, read every writing, reading and publishing book I could get my grubby little hands on. I honed my skills, joined crit groups, solicited feedback, wrote and revised, and wrote and revised some more. And it’s all been great because I've learned a great deal about craft and people and life and myself along the way.
But there’s one thing that has always bothered the heck out of me.
It’s when I hear: Writers shouldn’t want to be published. (At least, not as their primary objective.) And: Writers should want to write because they are driven to.
I don’t know about you, but isn’t that like saying, "Don’t drive because you want to get somewhere. Drive because of the journey."? Hey, I’m all for the journey. Why else would I have titled this blog the way I did? But darn it, at some point, you got to get somewhere. Not to mention that annoying little fact that in order to put gas in the car, you need to make a little money along the way.
Not all writing books say this, nor has every experienced writer I've solicited advice from, but enough have that it makes me wonder WTF they’re thinking. Can we step down from our 50% cotton fiber tower for a second to be, um, real?
Why do we write?
There’s no one answer to that question, of course. Passion, boredom, desire for control, to influence, to move. But the endgame is the same: we all want to reach out to someone else. We’re storytellers and story creators, we’re tellers of tales and passers of information. And all of that implies an audience, which requires publishing in at least one of its many manifestations.
Why am I going off on this now?
Simple: it's all about control. For decades, writers have had none. Okay, maybe a little. But whatever control we have in creating content becomes quickly lost in the old publishing model. I don’t need to explain; it’s glaringly clear what I mean. And for decades, this model worked. Why? Because it was really the only one out there. Self-pubbing and going indie equated to vanity. It permitted some to do what they wanted to do while circumventing “the model.” But let’s be honest, it could never achieve what “the model” could. All that is changing. There's a new kid on the block, and he's sticking up for underdog.
Writers want to publish. We want to reach readers. We want to entice and cajole, excite, thrill, inform and...we want to touch. As many people as we can. As quickly as we can. In exactly the way we envisioned we could. For the first time, that’s becoming within reach of the masses. Publishing is experiencing a democratization that's long overdue.
It’s hard work, of course, but then again, why should it be easy? Hard, but no longer impossible.
So, stop telling me I should write because of the journey, or because I’m driven, or because it’s my passion. I know all those things already. Stop discouraging me from keeping my eye on the end zone. This is my game, and for once the rules are in my favor.
I will be hosting a guest blogger tomorrow, Saul Tanpepper, who will talking about "What Readers Really Want (that Publishers Fail to Understand)." I've known Saul a long time, since we were kids, but our paths separated and only recently crossed at a local book signing 2500 miles from where we both grew up. Ironically, our paths have taken us on similar trajectories: I studied molecular and cell biology and worked for biotech before writing, whereas Saul studied molecular genetics and taught. Saul has been my self-publishing spiritual guide for the past six months.