Why Do We Write?

There are days when I am so excited to be a writer. Words flow. Ideas excite me. I am energized. But there are plenty of other days where I wonder what I am doing. Writing is lonely. It is hard. And it can be really frustrating. And that doesn’t even include the publishing process.

Right now I am feeling sad. I have a manuscript I really, really believe in. It is a non-fiction story that deserves to be told. I am the one to tell it. I have told it. My agent has sent it around. It got some strong interest. That interest seems to have evaporated without even a little explanation. Not even a “sorry, not quite as right for us as I thought,” or “sorry the marketing department says it’ll be a hard sell.” Nothing. Like it never happened.

So I feel discouraged.

Then I went to a talk where a publisher was asking the same question. Why do we do this? Why do we do this hard, lonely, humbling work? She talked about POS numbers. That stands for Point of Sale. Because publishing is a business. And businesses are about selling things and making money. So POS is important. But when this editor looks at POS , she considers every person who read that particular book. Every grandparent who bought it and read it to their grandchildren. Every parent who bought the book for their child. Every child who loved it enough to read it to themselves. Over and over and over again. Maybe even in bed, under the covers, with a flashlight after they were supposed to be asleep.

And so that editor used that POS number to be inspired. To envision every single life that that particular book had touched and enriched.

That perspective helped me. And so when I am feeling discouraged, or frustrated or even confused, I will remember each person who has told me, “I didn’t know anything about horse racing and I loved your book.” Or “I don’t even like horses and I couldn’t put your book down.” Or “I gave your book to my nephew and he loved it. He wrote me a thank you note. He never writes thank you notes.” Those are my POS’s.

I remind myself that I am privileged to be able (financially, emotionally, mentally and physically) to write. I remind myself that the world of publishing is not in my control. But the part I can control, the writing part, I will continue to pursue.

If you are reading this and you dream of being a writer or you are a writer, keep your eye on the long term. Show up every day. Keep telling your stories. Then you will be a writer. I am a writer. Sometimes I am a happy, excited writer. Sometimes I am a discouraged writer. But I show up every day and I write. Keep the faith!

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