I’ve been trying to remember why I write. Ever since last week when I attended several seminars on writing during Gen Con 2016, the same question kept popping up: why do we write? How much do want this—the writer’s life? What’s the point?
I can tell you one thing: it’s not to make money.
Did you know that the majority of authors (even if they’re traditionally published with one of the biggest—the big four—publishing houses) make less than $5,000/year/book? As in there are only 40% who make more than $5,000, and only 9% make over $100,000. For a self-published author (like me) who only has one book out (currently) the likelihood is that I’ll make a whopping $0.00 on my first book during the first year. Yee Ha!
So, needless to say I am not a writer for the money.
That brings us back to the central question: Why do I write?
It’s not an easy answer. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. My mom, bless her, saved all these short stories and poems I wrote from the time I was a little girl (maybe… MAYBE second grade) all the way up to when I was in middle school. For the record, I started keeping my own stories and poems after that. I look back at some of them now and think, “wow that was pretty shitty” or “you know, for a fifth grader, that wasn’t so bad.”
I think about all the times I regaled my younger cousins, younger Girl Scouts, and friends with stories around the camp fire. Sure, they were ghost stories or camp stories, but they were my stories. I remember how it felt seeing their faces as we got to the climax of the story. Or how they would hold onto my arm afterwards as we walked back to our tents, because the story I had just told was that scary.
Stories have the power to connect us. They make us feel understood. They help us discover the world(s) beyond our own imagination. Stories are the core of what it means to be human.
I remember why I chose to write my first novel. I wanted to share an experience that was heart-wrenching, real, and unforgettable. I wanted to inspire others to believe that they can be the person they always wanted to be. I wanted to write something personal. So I did.
As I continue to grapple with this idea about what it means to be a writer and why I write, I think the most basic answer is this: I am a storyteller. I pay attention to the experiences of the people around me and, as I discover who they are and the things that they’ve done, I write. I create whole characters and worlds where I can grapple with the human experience or a major social concern that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to grapple with. I write because this is who I am.
At my core. I am a storyteller.