A common question for any writer is why we write. For me, I have a desire to express myself and do so better in writing than speaking. This has been consistent throughout my life. When speaking extemporaneously, I often disengage my brain, leading to either saying the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong time, or fumbling over my words, barely able to articulate what I want to say. I have a similar block, in any expressive format, when answering open ended questions about myself, but that’s a psychoanalysis for another day.
The question of why often splits along practical versus metaphysical lines. A practical reason would be that I have a story to tell and writing is more permanent and less time consuming that walking around telling each person a story individually. Making money is rarely a consideration, particularly since I’m an indie author and publisher. There’s a reason writers hope for million sellers, because that’s the number one would need to sell to make a decent living on a single title. Almost every writer I’ve known has a day job (except for those who sell stories to Hollywood on a regular basis), so there aren’t a lot of authors getting rich off writing and publishing. Digital mediums make it even tougher, driving down costs, even though an indie author often gets to keep more off each sale. Not to mention, there are lots of people of various writing proficiencies who are publishing.
In addition to being time consuming, it’s also an expensive enterprise. As a publisher, I have to foot the bill for everything. There’s printing and shipping costs, and vendors expect discounts off the price of books up to fifty-three to fifty-five percent. Once I factor in the discount price and production costs, my “publisher’s compensation” is usually less than two dollars per book. If I had to pay royalties to an author, there wouldn’t be much left over for either of us.
Still, the advantages of publishing my own work outweigh the drawbacks. I don’t have to concern myself with how marketable each title will be, though it’s certainly a consideration, giving me far more creative control, and the amount of time between conception, creation, and release is a fraction of how long it takes someone querying agents or being picked up by a traditional publisher. Plus, I can make changes and updates whenever I want and they disseminate quickly to online vendors. Not having a team of editors makes due diligence essential to insuring a quality product. It does help to have at least one other set of eyes looking over a manuscript.
Aside from the practical concerns, there are metaphysical reasons for being a writer. These are tied to what I refer to as the “metaphysical why” behind events. For example, if a tree falls on and kills a person, one can analyze what happened and ascertain the mechanics behind the factors that contributed to it: the age of the tree; the looseness or saturation of the ground; the amount of trauma suffered by the victim. But the question no one can answer is why that particular tree fell at just the precise time that unfortunate person was walking past it. Sometimes one can develop an entire chain of events that brought that person to that point, seemingly giving the event an air of inevitability.
So, the real question of why one writes can come down to what purpose one feels the writing is serving. This is the subjective side of writing and the reason can vary quite a bit from writer to writer. For me, there’s a sense of leaving something behind that’s beyond the physical confines of my existence. I enjoy the feeling of creating new worlds, which look like my own, but are populated by people I’d like to meet. While I have no idea if my work will or won’t survive, the thought that someone hundreds of years in the future could be reading something I wrote is very compelling. I often wonder how Shakespeare would have felt to know the plays and Sonnets have survived for so long and are still quoted and emulated today.
Writing is a very personal medium and writers put a bit of themselves on every page. The one thing common to us all is the overwhelming need to express ourselves and share our thoughts with an audience, even if it’s just a single person or small group of people. Those who don’t feel that compulsion may never understand the need to write but ultimately, the only person for whom one needs to justify one’s actions is oneself. Let everyone else keep wondering and most importantly, keep writing.