If you write because you think it’s the quickest way to becoming a millionaire, think better.
In particular, you’re making two basic mistakes.
The make-a-living myth
The first is a simple matter of numbers.
To pay the bills and send their kids to school, most writers, even the moderately successful ones, have to balance their precious time between their art and an often mundane day job.
Of course, this doesn’t mean there are no authors able to accumulate a fortune with their books. We have all heard of people like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, and all the others.
However, considering the number of all the authors, those who sell enough to live from their craft really are a minority.
This is so even if we don’t take into account the gazillion aspiring writers out there in the wild who write sporadically, read erratically, and rarely invest time to learn how to improve their style and their sales.
Loving the idea of writing, not writing in itself
The second basic mistake is even more important than the first. Many people decide they want to become writers without even loving writing.
This is an atrocious mistake because if you don’t love writing, you’re never going to turn it into a serious business. And the reason is simple. While in many tedious jobs you can just go through the motions and, so to speak, zone out, with writing you don’t have such an option.
Simply put, writing constantly requires your full attention. There’s no way for a writer to sit down and just go through the motions. Even the most experienced writers can’t pull off such a dirty trick. Though it’s not as dangerous, I would say writing is like driving a Formula One car.
Of course, writing a page while wandering with your mind can be a way to start a difficult writing session. But you can rest assured that the first page is going to be shredded into nonexistence as soon as you edit your work.
Why I love writing – at least, most of the time…
Provided you’re clear about what you’re embarking on, writing can be the most rewarding job in the world. For me it certainly is. Even if I still know next to nothing about the most prosaic aspects of it–I mean all that shit about platform building, mailing lists, social media, and marketing. And I do have a day-job.
Writing offers me the opportunity to enter the flow almost on a daily basis. This is an invaluable experience. In fact when I emerge from a writing session and, looking at the watch in the lower right corner of the screen, I realize I’ve been writing for half and an hour, I am reminded of how powerfully what I’m doing resonates with me.
In addition, entering the flow and staying in it has something mystical. You don’t experience uncertainties when you’re in the flow. You don’t stop and think, yet on some deeper level you know that the word you’re about to write is more important than any other task you’re supposed to carry out. And you keep going. A word after the other. Pushing the cursor on.
Writing is also a way to get to know myself better. I think it’s so because through the action of the characters populating my stories I carry out a sort of emotional transference. In this way I can replay past experiences, I can modify them, I can mix them together to form a sort of pyre where to cauterize with a cathartic fire my deepest wounds.
It’s like having infinite opportunities to build and dismantle my personal mindscape. So that with each new variation I end up getting to know something more about myself. For example, in general I’m not at all a jealous guy, but there’s nothing like writing to help me discover how, given the right circumstances, this lack of jealousy can be unsettlingly flimsy.
To put it mildly, I’m not exactly an extrovert. But this doesn’t mean I don’t like the opportunity to connect with people. It’s just that my ways aren’t tailored for massive real-time face-to-face interactions.
Parties are big no-noes for me. Crowded markets and beaches are in the same league. Indeed, I love mountain hiking because when you have to hike for at least three or four hours up a mountain, chances are that when you get at your destination there aren’t going to be many people around… And most of them are other introverts… just kidding =)
However, being an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy connecting and communicating with people. And writing offers me exactly this. A way to connect, to communicate and change in some way the life of the people who read my stories.
I discovered the importance of this aspect many years ago. I had invited my girlfriend and her sister to my home and then I had read them a long passage of a book I was writing. At a certain point I saw big tears flooding the eyes of my girlfriend’s sister, and from that moment on nothing was ever the same again. I had discovered words had weight. The weight readers decided to give them, of course, but still some sort of weight.
The thrill of the discovery
Finally there’s that strange pleasure I savor whenever I’m writing without knowing where my story is going and why. This happens often with my first drafts. But then at some point all of a sudden it’s like a big cloud sails away past the horizon and lets the sun shine down right on me.
So I can finally see the shadow, my shadow, the shadow of my story, and where before I only had a bunch of more or less unrelated scenes, now I begin to envision a more meaningful whole.
It was all there from the start, of course it was. But it needed to reach a certain critical mass to persuade my mind to look at it closely. This doesn’t mean my first drafts require no edits of sorts. Quite the opposite. But once the core concept of a story is well defined, putting together all the other pieces in a meaningful whole becomes way simpler.
The tip of the iceberg
Of course, writing is such a complex and multifaceted activity that in reality I could list a million more reasons why I love writing.
Even if at times I have to strive to ferry into reality each single word. Even if on some days I feel like a perfect idiot. Even if the best idea I ever got has been used hundreds of times just over the last decade.
I think this is so because writing is like breathing. On some days the air is sweet and ethereal and makes me feel on cloud ninth, on some others it is heavy and acrid and makes me feel like I’ve being poisoned.
But either way, just like I can’t stop breathing–not for long anyway, even on the worse days I can’t stop writing–because it keeps me alive.