Author Business & Publishing, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles

Why Do You Write? (An Idea Revisited Two Years Later)

If you’re reading this, I assume you want to be or already are a writer. I also assume that there’s a decent chance you want to be a full-time author. So, if that’s you, let me ask you two difficult questions: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author, when there are hundreds of easier career options?

writing and coffeeNow, your gut instinct is probably something like, “Come on, Kate! Writing is my life. Those questions are so easy!”

But do me a favor and really think about it. I’ll give you a personal anecdote while you ponder your own situation …

After my recent move from New Haven to the Bay Area, I’ve had a difficult time getting back in my creative groove. I have a lot of perfectly valid excuses: organizing the new place, adjusting to a new work and household routine, exploring new shops and landmarks, to name a few. But, I think I finally understand the real issue.

Whenever I meet new people, I introduce myself as a writer. I include my novelist side, but I always admit, with a twinge of unnecessary shame, that my books don’t pay the bills. I’m “really” a copywriter for a wine marketing company (which has actually helped my fiction writing). It sounds super-sexy on paper, and while most of the time I just stare at a computer screen like every other office worker, it is a great job. Though I’m still the lowest rung on the company ladder, I could make copywriting/marketing a long-term career. And I think it would make me happy.

It would be SO. MUCH. EASIER. to just let go of my author ambitions and relax into the 9-to-5 life. I’m NOT saying every 9-to-5 job is easy, and I’m definitely challenged at my work, but giving up the author stuff would relieve me of several challenges. I could stop spending nights and weekends at the computer. I could stop heaping guilt on myself when I don’t meet my creative goals. I could stop spending hard-earned, harder-saved money on editing, cover designs, and marketing expenses. I could stop all the other nuisances of indie authorship and still call myself a professional writer.

Live your dreamBack to you: your situation is obviously much different from mine. Maybe you’re working a job you loathe. Maybe you have tons of extra money to shower on self-publishing. Maybe you view writing solely as a career and aren’t bothered by any of the emotional, passionate aspects.

Still, I ask again: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author?

(If you’re a fan of the Sterling & Stone trio, you can probably guess that I’m a big believer in Sean’s “Know Your Why” mantra, which this insightful article discusses more eloquently than I can.)

While contemplating this question, I remembered a blog post I wrote over two years ago. It lists the reasons why I write, along with some great additions from fellow writers in the comments. They all still hold true, but they don’t answer why I want to write fiction professionally and not just as a hobby.

After giving it some careful thought and seriously evaluating my larger personal/life goals, here are a few of my reasons:

Writing is my greatest passion.
Writing is my most employable skill.
Creative satisfaction means more to me than conventional success.
I want to be my own boss and set my own working hours.
I want the freedom to vacation when and how I choose.
I want to work be able to work from anywhere in the world.
I don’t want to regularly manage other people.
I don’t want to give up my dream to help someone else achieve theirs.
I love storytelling.
I want the opportunity to make my daily work meaningful and valuable.
I want to entertain, inform, and educate others.
I want to make a difference in the world and provide a source of escape for others.

Conclusion? Being a full-time writer both satisfies my creative passions and provides several practical benefits that “regular” jobs cannot.

If you’re in a similar situation to me (and I know at least one of my friends reading this is), do yourself a favor and ask these questions. You might realize that writing is just a hobby for you — and that is 100% awesome. Or (more likely, I bet), you’ll realize that full-time authorship is really the career you want. If that’s the case, you’ll be armed with a list of reasons to keep you motivated when the going gets tough. And trust me, it will get tough.

But, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s also wholly, completely, utterly worth it.

Leave your reasons in the comments and cheer on your fellow authors. If you’re already living the full-time dream, I’d love to hear whether your “why” remains true now that you’ve reached your goal. 

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Why Muses Are Bad for Writers

We’ve all heard of them, maybe you think you have one. But what exactly is the function of the writer’s muse? And is she actually good for your writing?

calliopePerhaps the most famous writer’s muse is Calliope, the muse of epic poetry in Greek mythology, who whispered fantastic tales to the poets of old. A more modern example might be the muse mentioned by Steven Pressfield in his book, The War of Art, who is described as a conglomerate of higher powers that gives celestial inspiration to writers. Whatever incarnation the muse takes, the basic idea behind her is that she is an otherworldly being that bestows inspiration onto the writer.

Do modern writers actually believe in the muse as a physical, yet intangible, being? Maybe. For some, the muse might represent a divine source of creativity, like an angelical intermediary for creativity from a god or gods. If that is the case for you, please note that I am not trying to challenge your faith. If you believe a god or gods gives you the inspiration and will to create, by all means, go about your business.

However, if you are like most modern writers, the muse is more of a metaphor. A symbol, perhaps, of that spark every human feels when an idea pops into the brain or the creative juices seem to make the whole body tremble with energy. These writers do not believe that the muse is an actual entity, but they still refer to her as a way to make the creative process more understandable, or even more likely, more romantic.

Personally, I do not believe that I have a muse hovering over my shoulder, and I do not refer to one when a bout of inspiration strikes. I purposefully scorn “the muse” for these two reasons:

1. The muse becomes a scapegoat.

When writers feel uninspired or un-creative, they may blame the muse. (They may also blame writer’s block, which is a whole other animal.) By saying that they “are waiting on the muse,” writers are giving themselves the perfect excuse to avoid writing. After all, it’s not their fault they don’t want to work on their project, their muse just is not inspired/properly fed/present today.

While it is entirely fine to admit that one simply is not feeling creative or does not want to write, it is not fine to attribute these feelings to a muse. Unless you truly believe that there is a divine being whispering your stories in your ear, the only person lacking inspiration and the only person preventing you from writing is you.

2. The muse gets all the credit.

When writers are bursting with inspiration and filling the page with words, they attribute that to the muse. They may say that their muse is well-fed or inspired or fully-present. She has brought them the gift of eloquence, and they are acting as her conduit and bringing her story to the world.

But what about you, dear writers? What about all the hours you have spent at the keyboard, the way you brainstormed how to fix that plot hole when you couldn’t sleep, the dozens of websites and books you scoured to research your setting? Should the muse, a symbol for your creativity, receive all the praise? No. You worked hard. You felt inspired. You brought your story to life.

eratoEven if you do believe in a higher power, I implore you to take some credit for your own creativity. Sure, as your creator, the higher power may deserve some credit. After all, don’t we all owe our ability to live to our parents? However, if you are in the spiritual majority, you also believe in free will. Yes, your deity may have breathed life into you, thus allowing you to be creative, but according to the tenants of free will, you also chose to be creative and to be a writer. At the very least, give yourself a pat on the back for making use of your talents, no matter where you think they came from.

In the end, I realize that most writers will not take the idea of the muse so literally. In fact, most of the writers who read this will probably be asking, “Kate, it’s just a symbol. Why does it matter?” Well, I’ll tell you why.

The reading public, writers included, view writers as these suffering artists, these moody geniuses who bleed all over their typewriters (because they’re also hipsters). And you know what? That is simply not reality. There are plenty of writers who enjoy writing, who treat writing as a business, and who are not starving. By continuing the tradition of the muse, by blaming her and giving her credit, we perpetuate these writer stereotypes and continue to frame ourselves more as dramatic artists than professionals.

I don’t know about you all, but I don’t fit these stereotypes, and I don’t want to be associated with them anymore.

If you feel the same way, then please, heed my words. When you don’t feel inspired, just admit it. (It’s okay, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a writer.) When you write something fantastic, give yourself your due credit. (It’s okay, it doesn’t make you a jerk.)

Take ownership of your creative life and stop waiting around on the muse.

Trust me, she’s not coming.