Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Why Bother to Write?

There's an upsetting trend among writers these days. With the collapse of the publishing industry (coupled with a disturbing amount of Jersey Shore books), many writers are asking the question: "Why bother?" There's no future in publishing, no one's reading, and the average response to the name Charles Dickens is a snicker followed by, "You said Dickens...Dick-ens...heh heh..."

So why spend hours and months and years and decades doing something that you won't make a living at, and no one will care about, and only a handful of people will read?

I can't tell you why you should write, but I'll tell you why I write. I write because I have to write. That's it. That's the root of my passion. I gotta. And that's why I'll write, everyday, for the rest of my life. Yes, Traditional Publishers are sinking, and people aren't reading, and the idea of a decent screenplay is almost taboo in Hollywood. Still, I write. Painters must paint, dancers must dance, mechanics must...mechan?

I must write.

For me, writing is a very integral part of my sanity. Without writing, how would I get all that "stuff" out of my skull? How do non-writers do it? I have no idea. Maybe they don't. Maybe they just walk around like shaken soda bottles with the cap on tight. Maybe that's why people eventually go postal, or take drugs, or garden.  

I must write. And it turns out, I'm not alone.

Stephen King on why he became a writer: "The answer to that is fairly simple—there was nothing else I was made to do. I was made to write stories and I love to write stories. That's why I do it. I really can't imagine doing anything else and I can't imagine not doing what I do."

Ray Bradbury: "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." 

Sinclair Lewis: "It is impossible to discourage real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write."

Isaac Asimov: "If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster."

Lord Byron: "If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad."

And it goes on and on and on. I write (and I hope you write) because to not write would be like trying to breathe underwater. You'd choke. And so, while the craft is taking a beating, I don't want to throw in the towel. There is no towel. 

If you write for the vague hope of fame and fortune, then you may be disappointed in your venture. Times are tough for the storyteller. Maybe you should try accounting, or law, or chicken sexing. But if you keep coming back to writing despite:

a.) being poor
b.) being unpublished
c.) getting rejected by virtually every magazine and/or publisher

then you sir, or madam, are a writer. You do what you do because of the "stuff" that needs to get out, not because of the money. So don't worry about the publishing industry. Let it ebb and flow. Or, if you're feeling a little sea sick, then declare yourself "Indie" and do it on your own. Times they are a-changin'. Self-publishing isn't what it used to be. "Vanity" is a dirty little word we'll learn to forget together. 

Look inside yourself. Is the need there? Do you need to do it, like you need to eat or drink or smoke crack? If so, then let all those whiny writers fill the boards with thier protests of "IT'S NOT FAIR, IT'S NOT FAIR!"

You won't care--you'll be too busy hunting down murderers, conversing with vampires, and piloting spaceships through wormholes. You'll be too busy having fun.

Go play.