28 May 2007

Why I write

Every now and then I'll be talking to another writer -- someone from a writer's group, or a student or at a conference and convention -- and they'll say something that really floors me: "Oh, yes, I write because I want to become rich and famous."

Hello? Those who've been around the tracks awhile know this scenario is possible but not very likely, especially in Aus. No matter how literate our population, the fact is that our numbers are much lower than say the reading audience in the US. Still, even in Aus, there are a few who make the kind of figures that most people salivate about -- those few success stories who sustain the dreamers among us. But the last figure I heard bandied around for how much the average "professional" writer in Australia makes was $6,000/year. Hardly enough to retire on.

I say to my students that you have to love writing. You have to be driven. You have to want to write. This is a hard journey with a lot of knocks along the way, and if you don't have the passion -- if you're not getting something out of it irrespective of whether you're getting rejection slips or acceptances in the mail, then it's going to be even harder. Some of them look at me as if my skin has suddenly turned green and smoke is belching from my nose. "But I want to make money," they'll say. I have to admit that at the moment I have made far more from my editing than I ever have from my writing. That may change one day -- or it may not. Acceptance is beyond my control. What is in my control is writing the best book that I can. Crafting. Keeping an audience in mind -- all of that.

I'm not sure I always love the writing process itself, but I love having written. That's the aphrodisiac for me -- the euphoria of having created. Having something on the page that is my vision (even if not quite the way I hoped it would turn out). I know others love the first draft, but to me the redrafting is where the juice is.

There are times when life does get in the way, and I can't make time to write. Boy, don't I know about it. I get increasingly frustrated and grumpy. Mostly, though, it's a matter of planning. Of putting my own writing high on the list of priorities -- if not first. After all, if I'm going to call myself a writer, one thing I have to do is to write!

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