Friday, May 10, 2013

Why do we write?

A little BSP (blatant self promotion)--I got two nice reviews today. One, for Murder at the Blue Plate Café, called it fast-paced and said it makes you think about your view of life and what is truly important. The other, for the older Skeleton in A Dead Space, called it very engrossing and fast moving with characters you can identify with and advised adding it to your must-read list.  Needless to say, both reviews have me floating on a cloud of happiness. Heady stuff, since I still consider myself a fledgling at mysteries. But the reviews got me to thinking about something that's been niggling around in the back of my mind.
The other day I saw on a post that an author wrote that any one who thinks writing is not a business is fooling themselves. While I fully recognize that it is a business, I'm not sure money is why I write. I'm not good at following sales number on Amazon or Smashwords, so checks from those sources always come as pleasant surprises. Checks from my publisher are often a bit of a letdown because I hope for my sales of my current and brand-new works though she assures me I'm doing really well. I don't check reviews on Amazon or Goodreads often (never have figured Goodreads out completely). I'm no good at worrying about Amazon's algorithms or whether or not it's worthwhile to post for Nook or which is better--traditional bookmarks or business cards. Marketing just isn't my thing. I do blog, post on Facebook and Twitters, try to do lots of guest blogs, order bookmarks, hold a launch when I have print books, and that's all fun for me. If any of it were a chore, I wouldn't do it.
But I'm fortunate that I don't have to write for sustenance. I'm retired, have a retirement income and have other assets. My earnings from writing allow me life's luxuries, like my recent trip to Hawaii and the deck I'm thinking of putting on the back of my house. Once, at a gathering of five women, one of them said to me, "Pretty soon you'll be so successful you can retire a second time." I told them that I'd recently gotten a royalty check and if they weren't too fussy about where they went, I might be able to take them to lunch. No wine with lunch, though.
I write because I cannot imagine not writing. I write because telling stories gives me great pleasure, even when I have to struggle to figure out what's next and where the story is going. I'm a longtime believer in listening to your characters and they'll tell you where your story is going. I write because working things out in words gives me as much pleasure as a mathematician gets from working out a complicated formula. My life would be empty without writing.
When I retired, I joined Sisters in Crime and the sub-group, Guppies (Going to Be Published or Great Unpublished, whichever way you want to think about it). Those groups have opened a whole new world for me and kept me busy daily. I've always believed in getting involved in groups you join, so I monitor the listserv one day a week for SinC and I'm on the Guppies Steering Committee. Nothing to do with mysteries, but I also edit the monthly neighborhood newsletter and weekly welcome first-time visitors to our church.
Plus I have family and friends to keep up with, go out to lunch and dinner, and a household to run, a dog to care for. Life keeps me busy, but writing gives it a center and a focus. If I weren't writing, I'd be cooking but that's not a full-time occupation for several reasons--who would eat all that food, since I sort of live alone, sort of don't (one of my part-time residents is a picky six-year-old). And my back is getting too old to spend hours on that lovely stone kitchen floor. No, I write...and cook occasionally.
Writing gives meaning to my life and brings me pleasure--especially when I have a new book come out or, like today, I get a good review. Do I want the income to stop? No way, but it's not my primary reason for writing.


Polly Iyer said...

I don't know you, Judy, other than the wonderful correspondence we've had in the last few months. I know you from your writing, and I bet if we ever meet, you'll be just like I perceive you to be. You say things straight out, and there's an honesty that comes with your words. I found that in your latest book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. You're right, of course. Writers write because they can't not. Sorry for the double negative, but saying it that way is more powerful. Writing for me has become a bit of a business. It wouldn't be that way if we sold two properties we have up for sale, but until that time comes, writing money has filled some crucial needs. I don't think of it when I'm writing. I just write. I love it. But I do check my sales, because I have to know what to do to increase them, barring obnoxiously overselling them. If writing ever became a chore, I'd stop writing. That hasn't happened. I have too many ideas floating around in my head to ever stop. Wonderful blog. So you.

Judy Alter said...

Many thanks, Polly. I consider that high praise from you. I have enjoyed our correspondence and really hope we meet someday.