Why am I writing a book?
My last entry (Who will read my book?) was triggered by anxiety, but fuelled by hope. It broke down some of my fears about putting my stuff (sure, let’s call it stuff for now. That’s as good a label as any) and intentions out there for all to see. It was an honest look at myself and what I’m trying to do (Project: Write the book), and the responses received were amazing. As I read them and gloried in the number of people reading (yes, I know, I’m a small man motivated by small things), I realized that while the anxiety I continue to experience is an important thing for me to talk about (since many writers, would-be or otherwise, seem to share the feeling), I have neglected to talk about why. Why do I want to write a book?
The first and main motivator? I have a story to tell. A good story. A story that people (some people, anyway. Maybe person? One person?) will want to share. They will call it a great read. It will make them want to read more. I want people to read (and finish) it and say/shout/txt/email/submit a Goodreads review “I couldn’t put this down and I want more!” I also love seeing my name in print. There. I said it.
Wait. There’s more. I want to suffer by, or glory in, comparison. Even if it’s to say “well, he’s no Neil Gaiman,” my name (or a pronoun taking the place of my name) will have been uttered in the same breath as Neil Gaiman’s. Mission accomplished. Perhaps that’s vain and unrealistic, but I think writers have to be wired that way in order to succeed.
Which raises a solid point: The odds of getting published and read (at least read widely) these days are slim. There’s just so much material out there. So, If one believes (as I, admittedly, often do) that there’s little-to-no chance of success, why would he or she (or me) go through the struggle of writing anything? Why start?
The first problem is the definition of success. What will success look like to you? For me? Please re-read the aforementioned shared billing with Neil Gaiman in the same breath.
Apart from success, there’s the dream. Sure, it’s a daydream. You know the one. Where your book (whether it’s been written or not) hit the NYT Bestsellers list, sold millions of copies and inducted you into the immortal ranks of authors you read and admire. That one.
That’s what storytellers do. They dream. They fictionalize and fantasize. And that’s why people read them. They create stories that inspire or educate or entertain or scare or amaze us. That’s what I want to do.
And I want to do it for a living. Not for money, per se, but for a living. There’s a job, and then there’s a career. A calling. I’m at a point in my life where I’m trying to identify what’s important and what the next years will look like, and what will make me want to get up everyday. What will help make me easier for my family to put with.
Money will be nice (and necessary), but it’s not the reason to write the book. Challenging yourself. Deciding to do something, and doing it. Realizing you have something to say. To tell a story. Your story. And trying your hardest to tell it the best you can. That’s the dream, and it’s more important than money. More dreamy, anyway.
I hate to be the one to crush your dreams, but the odds that [your book] will sell even a 100,000 copies are so vanishingly small they are essentially zero.
- Tucker Max, Co-founder of Book in a Box. From “Why You Should NOT Write A Book”
So, odds and dreams aside, I have a firm belief that we have yet to see the best writing of our, or any time. I’m a fan of many genres. My favourite authors include (in alphabetical order, not by preference): Richard Bach (JLS is the first book I remember my Dad giving me. I love it to this day), Brian Michael Bendis (can’t forgot about graphic novels), Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, Neil Gaiman, Guy Gavriel Kay, George R.R. Martin, Michael Ondaatje, Brandon Sanderson, and J.R.R. Tolkien (and most recently Brent Weeks) to name a few. You’ll note that many (most) of those fall into the epic fantasy genre. Many (most) are considered legends and icons in that space. Each have a special place in my heart and mind. Places that can’t be supplanted. I can make room for more, and I know I’ll have to.
Readers aren’t saying that the authors they read these days aren’t cutting it. Neither readers nor writers are saying there aren’t any stories left worth telling. There are more stories to read out there, and there are manymanymany writers trying to tell them. The rule of numbers dictate that we’ll have to take the good with the bad. But the good! They are so … good. I contend that we have yet to see what can be done in the epic fantasy genre, and I want to be a part of that conversation.
The only way that can happen is to write. Write the book. So I am. Slowly. Wish me luck. If you’re on the same path, good luck to you too!
If you are at all interested in supporting my creative endeavours, you’re in luck! I’ve just joined Patreon, a simple way for people to contribute to Project: Write the book and get great rewards in return (one of which is immortality. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). It’s kind of like Kickstarter (Patreon, not immortality).