Last week I hosted a contest in which I asked readers to leave a comment telling me why it’s important to them to be published.
Most of the comments cited personal satisfaction and helping others as main motivations.
It got me thinking about the various reasons people have for wanting to write for publication, as opposed to writing as a hobby. Here’s the list I came up with:
- Personal Satisfaction–the need to write, and the intense desire to see one’s own work in print
- Helping Others–the desire to help others by encouraging or leading by example
- Fame–wanting one’s name to go down in history as a well-known writer
- Money–thinking one will make a great deal of money and be able to quit one’s job
- Mission–a personal, religious or political motivation that one wants to share with others
I’ve never heard anyone say, “Hey, I’m in writing for the fame/money!” First, that would be silly–most writers make very little money for the amount of work they do, and the majority are far from famous. Second, few people would be willing to admit it, even if those were their motivations.
Still, if we’re honest with ourselves, don’t we all have (a) a desire to make money from our writing, and (b) a desire to be recognized for our writing? These may not be our main motivations, but they are there.
My own wish to be published stems mostly from personal satisfaction. I’ve been writing all my life, and I’ve finally committed to doing what it takes to get published. Whether or not I ever see a dime for my efforts, I need to know I’ve dedicated myself to this journey.
That said, I would love to make a little money doing something I love, and something that gives me the freedom to stay home with my kids.
As for helping others, I think my non-fiction fits into that category. In fact, all my articles here at Write It Sideways are geared toward helping others like myself gain the skills to become better writers.
So, why exactly do you want to be published?
N.B. Since writing the first draft of this post, I’ve come across a couple of blogs that are discussing similar themes this week. Must be something in the water. Nathan Bransford wants to know What keeps you writing?, and Joe Sharp asks, Do you write because of talent or hard work motivated by desire? There are some interesting comments worth checking out.
Join the discussion
When I read a book I’m transported to a entirely new world. The problems and conflicts are not mine. They’re someone else’s and they usually fix them by the end of the book. I leave behind my own world with its problems and responsibilities for just a little while.
I write for creative self-expression and fulfillment. I want to be published to transport others for just a little while.
.-= Read Southpaw´s last article ..Moments that take your breath away =-.
Thanks, Southpaw. Gotta love that feeling of transportation!
This is the same question — the second question, actually — I ask people who attend my workshops. The first question is, “DO you want to publish?” Followed quickly with “Why?”
The answers create an inescapable squaring off with certain fundamental truths. It’s interseting how, without that showdown, many writers claim a desire to publish, but then can’t articulate why they want it (no bed of roses, to be honest, but worth the work and the fight if that’s what you really want, and for good reasons)… but… they don’t bring a process and a work ethic to the party. This is like saying you want to live to 100 but refuse to give up your vices and toxic lifestyle. That’s a doomed mismatch. Sometimes those writers aren’t aware of the principles and commitments required to publish, they don’t know how the business runs and what’s required, and thus the workshop changes their lives. Others stay stubborn… and remain unpublished.
The other value in the question you pose, and the great post you’ve gifted us with here, is that the answer will lead you to the genre and specific story you SHOULD be writing. If the answer to “why?” is a desire to explore your inner most demons, for example, then why are you writing cozy mysteries instead of psychological thrillers or edgy YA? If the answer is you want to be rich and famous, then why are you writing generic romances (none of which ever result in rich and famous, you’ll sell 300o copies and be off the shelf in two weeks)? You’d be amazed at how often there is a mismatch between the “why” and the “what.”
Get that one straight, and you’ll jack your learning curve and hasten the apprenticeship required before publication becomes a real possibility.
.-= Read Larry´s last article ..The Thing About Sub-Plots =-.
That’s actually a great point you make, and it hadn’t really occurred to me. It does make sense to ensure your motivations for wanting to be published are in line with what you’re writing. My writing seems to naturally be a match with my publishing goals, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find people who haven’t made that connection yet.
Lydia Sharp says
Personal satisfaction… yes, that’s what got me started, and what keeps me going most of the time. There is an intense satisfaction that comes with finishing a project and knowing that the next thing in store for your “baby” is to get it published. And sometimes even just finishing a scene that had been giving me trouble is enough to give me a high.
There is a bit of those other things in my mind, too, and they are what keep me focused in a specific direction, as Larry brought out. I have a definite long-term goal of wanting to make money at this and wanting my name to be recognized as one of the great spec fic novelists of this generation, which is the main reason why I work so hard at it and view it as a profession, not just a hobby.
.-= Read Lydia Sharp´s last article ..HAPPY 10TH ANNIVERSARY! =-.
You’re so right. Personal satisfaction is what gets you started, but the desire to be published is what takes your writing from hobby to profession. I have great confidence you’ll make it one day!
John Peragine says
For me, writing is not what I do, it is what I am. I have explored other careers in my life and this is the one that I fully feel encompasses who I am. I have always wanted to be a writer, and after putting myself out there I made my dream a reality. I want to be published because I love the thrill of walking into any bookstore- anywhere in the US and seeing my name on a spine and feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment.
.-= Read John Peragine´s last article ..Explorer – On the Beer Trail in Vietnam – NYTimes.com =-.
I can imagine that’s a wonderful feeling! I hope to be in the same position one day 😉 Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Gael Lynch says
Great post, Suzannah. I often hear the question from others, “So…are you published yet?” Being published or not published makes me no less an artist/an author. But the truth of the matter is I write for an audience, so of course…I’m hungry for publication! Otherwise, I’d be putting it all down in a series of whiny, wordy entries inside that journal of mine. I, like Southpaw, love when the pieces of the puzzle all fit together. It just feels so right. And my thanks to Larry as well for forcing me to qualify myself as an edgy, young adult writer. A little bit of that teenage angst must still reside down in that deep well of mine. But now, I love to make the sparks fly with strong female characters and then ultimately lead the reader to the wonderfully compelling feeling of resolution in the end. And as for work ethic? I’m chasing the clock, with my butt in the chair before and after my day job! It’s a bit of an obsession, I have to admit!
.-= Read Gael Lynch´s last article ..Hearing Voices…and Going Along for the Ride =-.
Great point that being unpublished does not make us any less writers. If you think of writing and publishing like a continuum, we’re simply at a different stage at the moment. Thanks!
I thing “published” is a little like graduation. Sure, we can self publish and have a book in our hands next week if we want, but there’s something about making it through the system and having people in the business believe in your work. I’m in the process of agent hunting and it’s tough. I made more money fourteen years ago during my first year out of college; I gave up teaching to swing a hammer and write. I recently got a $100 check for an essay, the only money I’ve made from writing, and I keep holding it wondering if this is all worth it. I think I’ll use it for a couple good bottles of bourbon, think it through, and write about it of course.
In the end I think publication is about SHARING, getting the maximum amount of people to read and relate. A few bucks wouldn’t be so bad either! By the way, I’ll link this blog to mine.
.-= Read Ryan´s last article ..Keep Going =-.
Yes, a few bucks would be nice, but you’re right–it’s the personal satisfaction you get from writing that’s more important. Thanks for the link!