Why do we do it?

We work long hours – and for most of us those hours are squeezed in around a full-time day job, so we can end up working ridiculously long weeks.

We use our weekends and holidays. What is this thing they call ‘leisure time’?

We make those around us compromise to accommodate this thing that we do. And, making that worse, we can see their sacrifices, and god but that feels selfish sometimes.

The money? Hah, the money. For most of us, every pay cheque is the bonus, not the salary. Most writers can’t make a good living from what they do. They rely on other sources of income to pay the bills. Calculate the hourly rate from your writing income. Go on. It’s not even close to minimum wage, is it?

The recognition. Well yes, a good review is nice, but most books get a flurry of attention and then, at best, stay in print and available. And while the positive reactions are great, every book, every story we put out there is setting us up for a slap. Sometimes the slap is well-deserved, but often we get slapped by people who have agendas or petty jealousies of their own. And all too often it’s the negative whiners who are more motivated to comment than the many who read and enjoy our work.

We’re all too aware of our own shortcomings. It’s a rare writer who is satisfied with their latest work. We see the straining plot, patched over and flimsy. We see the characters and settings that just don’t quite take the shape we had seen in that initial flash of inspiration. We always know we could, and should, do better.

And more…

So: why do we do this writing thing?

We work long hours because we choose to, because anyone dedicated to their art would do nothing else. How could we not write?

We compromise on many aspects of our lives, and we’re aware of the impact this has, but then the people around us love us for who we are, and a central part of that is that we’re writers. Sometimes it’s tough, but then that’s life.

And sometimes the money is good. Some of us can do this thing full-time. Sometimes a movie option pays for the good things, or a book advance pays off those debts and that’s a bonus most people never get.

Recognition is good. Interaction with readers can be incredibly rewarding and stimulating. That fan mail from a teenager about to start one of my books for the third time is one of the most positive things that’s ever happened to me. The tweets that tell the world how much someone has liked your story. Writing should never be an ego trip, but hey, we all have egos, don’t we?

And if we weren’t aware of our own shortcomings how would we ever improve? I really would hate to write the perfect story. I always want to write a story better than I ever have before. And I want the next one to be better. I want to create something new, something that no one else has ever experienced, and I want to share that with people – I want other people to get some of the magic of creating something new.

That’s why we do it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way*.

* Okay, a few more movie options wouldn’t go amiss, but apart from that…

About Keith Brooke and infinity plus

Keith Brooke is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and other strange stuff, and editor and reviewer of same. He is also the publisher at infinity plus, an independent imprint publishing books by leading genre fiction authors. View all posts by Keith Brooke and infinity plus

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