Inkwell Guest: Daleen Berry on Why Do You Write

Today I have author, Daleen Berry! Please welcome her to the Inkwell.

V2013_latest - Version 2It’s nice to say a few words on someone else’s blog, and Michelle is very kind for letting me do that. Thank you, Michelle!

Today’s topic is “Why Do You Write?” Your answer will give you a clue about your future as a published author. Not about whether you will be published, but about whether you should be. Or even need to be.

Now wait a minute. Of course I want to be published. Isn’t that the only reason to write?

That’s exactly what I thought you would say. And as a matter of fact, no, publication isn’t the only reason. In fact, I’d say the most important reason to write is because you love to do it—and cannot imagine any other way to spend your free time.

There are two more reasons to write. Write because you believe—with every ounce of ozone in our atmosphere—that you have: a story worth telling, or something to say that can make a difference. In the sense it will enlighten, educate or inspire your readers to act differently.

I write because of the first reason. I seek publication for the second reason: to inspire, educate and enlighten. But when I write, I also try to tell a good story. One worth telling, and hopefully one that will leave people happy they read it.

Asking yourself the question “Why do I write?” can help you understand if writing is more important to you—or if becoming published is. Because the latter isn’t necessary for the former. And the former won’t necessarily lead you in a linear path to the latter.

So unless you’re a college professor looking for tenure, publication should be the last thing on your mind.

Whoa, are you kidding me? I want to make a living at this. I want the freedom and independence that comes with writing.

Yes, I hear the dismay in your voices. But no, I’m not kidding. Because the truth is, very few published writers make a good enough living to sustain themselves and their families. (That’s why many of them have a day job, and write on the side.) Fewer still get rich from a writing career or publishing contract.

I truly believe the goal of writing should come first—while the goal of publication must come second. And no, that isn’t an overly obvious statement. I know you can’t get published without first writing something to be published.

When I say worry about writing first, publishing second—if at all—I’m suggesting you’d be better served to focus on your skills as a writer. On grammar and syntax and making your language lyrical for readers. On putting one cohesive sentence after another, so your thoughts flow well. Then repeat those steps for paragraphs and chapters and so on. Until your writing shines. So people will actually want to read what you’ve written. So your words, your story, or even your message will propel them to keep turning the pages. Until they’ve turned the very last one.

People who think all published authors lead exciting lives, and thus aspire to this profession for that reason, are wrong. Even what looks like excitement—flying to exotic locales, attending writing conferences at the beach—is not exciting. It’s fun and it’s interesting, but even more than that, it’s a lot of work. Packing your bags once a month to leave your home and family behind for a trip that’s sure to test your mettle with cramped legroom, long lines through airport security, and even more work (if you’re a public speaker like I am or even if you just plan to sign books) is not exciting.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love what I do—but it’s hard work. I’m sure most published authors who do this will say the same thing.

However, publishing your written words—no matter the form or how you do it in today’s smorgasbord of publishing choices—and seeing your name in print, is exciting. When I saw my byline on my first newspaper article, I was so excited I still remember how it felt. And that was 25 years ago.

But if you’re looking to publish so you can experience adrenalin-rushing excitement, I’d recommend you become a NASCAR driver, instead. Because that’s exciting!

DaleenBerryIt is true that some—a small sliver of us—published authors experience the level of excitement many people equate with the writing profession. But my guess is that many people aren’t after excitement. Instead, it’s fame they crave—the kind that can come with being a published author. People like Maya Angelou, Frank McCourt, Stephen King, Agatha Christie, J.K. Rowling, and a few others (in comparison to the total number) have experienced that fame.

Most of us haven’t—and won’t. Instead, we will continue to write because life would be far less enjoyable if we didn’t. Downright boring, even. If we find out what we’ve written is a great story, or contains a powerful life lesson, we might decide to go for broke—look for a literary agent, be picked up by a publishing house, or simply publish what we’ve written all on our own.

In the meantime, we continue writing. Because for many of us, the act of writing is its own reward.

Where to find Daleen:
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By Michelle

I wish you all could be inside my head. The conversation is sparkling.