One of the writing blogs I subscribe to is Camille Laguire’s The Daring Novelist. She doesn’t talk about how-to or logistics or the business and such with every post, but it’s worth watching her blog for when she does, because when her posts head in that direction, they’re always worth reading.
On Monday she got down to the heart of the matter and discussed whether this writing thing is worth it. She said, in part:
The thing that got me fretting over this was the subtext of something a young writer said to me the other day. I was advocating the idea of devoting a couple of years to just writing — no marketing, no business, just getting books done — so that you’d have 5 or 10 books in hand to launch your career.
The response, to me, was shocking and a little heart-breaking: But what if that first book is a failure? Why waste several years of hard writing work before you even know if the market will like your stories?
The implication — within context — was that writing is a waste of time if you’re not successful at it NOW. Write one book, then if if flies, write more later. If it doesn’t fly, then it’s a waste of time to do this writing thing.
If you wanted to be a doctor, would you start out by setting up a clinic during your first year of medical school, and base your decision on whether to become a doctor on how successful your clinic was? Shouldn’t you be more interested in finding out whether you enjoy the work, or whether you can handle the workload? Shouldn’t you be looking at grades and feedback from instructors to judge whether you’re any good at it — not the dollars you make at it?
Look, if you want to be a writer, you’ve got to love to write. That’s what you will be doing, day in and day out. Writing writing writing. If you want to know if you can weather the hard times in a writing career, and if it’s “worth it” you don’t start with whether you can reach a bestseller list or win a Pulitzer.
You start with whether you can walk the walk.
I think this is something every writer has to think about at some point. Is it worth it? We’ve all heard the one about how so many writers don’t actually want to write, but rather they want to have written. That circles around the point, but Camille gets right to the center of it. Is writing enough? Do you enjoy the writing more than anything else? More than being published, more than getting checks, more than reading great reviews or getting praise and cookies and fansquee from readers?
All those other things can be fun and satisfying, and I think everyone enjoys some ego stroking whether they admit it or not, but if you don’t love the writing more than any of the other things, then really, is it worth it? If what you’re really after is praise and recognition, there are easier ways to get that. If you’re in it for the money, there are definitely easier ways to get that. When everything else dries up, or if you never get any of the other things however hard you try, the writing itself has to be enough. If it’s not, you’ll probably find it hard to stick with the writing long enough to give the rest of it a decent chance of finding you.
Read the rest of Camille’s post — it’s good stuff.