There are some conversations I seem to have with myself over and over again. One of them is worrying if I am doing the right things for the writing life I want to live.
Sometimes I think it would be so much easier (in my writing world) if I wrote fantasy or stories with magical creatures or maybe dark spooky stories about creatures of the night. They seem so popular compared to the stories that call for me to tell them. And sometimes I think it would be easier to write if I was writing full-time. That might not be true (though I wouldn’t mind getting a chance to try.) Sometimes I think if I had spent my time just writing novels rather than taking all the sideroads I have over the years, that maybe I would be further along.
I know it should be all about enjoying the process of writing but once you have sold some books it’s hard not to think about it as a business too. And when I think about the business side I can get sad fast. Books that take years to earn out their advance make it hard. And when I’m not writing fast enough to get stuff out there to deserve a new advance, well that’s hard too.
There are days (okay weeks and maybe even months) when all I seem able to do is wallow around in the “if only” ocean, usually after a rejection to a book that I felt was a personal best at that time and was unable to find an editor who loved it enough to champion its cause. And so I wallow for a while and wonder why I bother. And sometimes I try to quit, to think about a life without writing, and the pain I get in my gut at such a thought feels worse than I imagine any heart attack to feel. I think I’ve finally reached the point where I just accept that writing isn’t just what I do, it’s who I am. The good and the bad is all mixed up and I can’t even quit when the market is constantly shrinking and the readers seem unable to find us and when even great editors are choosing to spend their money on advances to celebrity authors instead of on the rest of us.
Sometimes I write to learn about myself and how I feel about things. Sometimes I write in order to hide from who I am, who I think I am, or who I am afraid of becoming. But mostly I write because writing defines me. When I’m not writing, when I’m not in the midst of a project of some kind or another, I don’t feel like I really exist. I can walk through the dayjob and do all the right things but it doesn’t define me. It’s just a job. But when the words race out my fingers and across the screen it’s like flipping the switch on Frankenstein’s monster and I’m alive.
I’m sorry for everyone who ever doubts that the work we do is worth the time and pain we invest in telling our stories. All I know for sure is that as a “lonely only” and misunderstood child books were the only place I felt safe enough to be myself. They taught me about other possibilities in life outside of what I was living and gave me dreams to work to make come true.
Books have saved me until I was strong enough to save myself.
And to every writer who has ever written something that I have read, I say thank you.