I don’t know this for sure, but I like to think that there comes a time in every writer’s life when you sit back from the computer keyboard for just a moment, and are struck by the sudden, inexplicable certainty that the worst of your critics are right. And, in that moment, you ask yourself, “What the hell am I doing?”
I know this feeling well. I bang smack up against that wall at least a couple times a year. Those are the times when I wonder why I continue – why I can’t seem to just pack it in and hang out the white flag of surrender. I’m hopeless to be anything better than mid-list, if I ever even make it that far. And, for a few hours or days, I wallow in the certainty that I’d be further ahead to use my half-finished manuscripts for kindling (never mind that my fireplace is gas, not wood-burning).
But then, in the dark pit of my self-pity, something inevitably occurs to me. I’ll sit and read something I wrote years ago – something I’ve never finished, and I’m not certain I ever will – and it becomes my epiphany.
It reminds me of the feeling I’ve lost along the way – the wonder of meeting new people (my characters) and experiencing things I’ll otherwise never get to share.
And I remember why I write. It’s not to become rich or famous (those would be nice, but they’re unnecessary for my personal completion). Whether I get a thousand acceptance letters, or a thousand rejections, I write because there are stories that need to be told, and because without writing, without those stories, I would lose a large part of who I am, inside.
So it doesn’t matter if I never sell a single book, as long as I remember why I’m really writing.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m overjoyed when someone writes to me to say they’ve read my work – whether they loved it, hated it, or anything in between. It means that I’ve shared that story with at least one other person. But it’s just knowing that I wrote it, that the story is out there, that makes me truly happy.
Will I forget all of this, at some point? Oh, yes, I know I will.
When the stresses of required advertising wear me down, and I feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall, I’m liable to ask myself why I’m doing this, yet again.
When the shark-like drive of others who are more interested in their sales than their stories allows them to intrude upon my scheduled time without so much as an apology, I’ll frown and wonder why I bother.
When my attempts to get involved in writing events are unsubtly rebuffed and I’m scraped off some uncaring organizer’s shoe like detritus, all because I’m not a six-figure NYTimes Bestseller, you can believe I’ll question my worth and ability as a writer.
But, in the end, I’ll come back to that one place, that one piece, and be reminded that, ultimately, it’s not what others think of me or my writing that matters. I write because the muse drives me – because it’s either write or go steadily insane – and that, in the end, is all that really matters.