Why Are You Writing?

Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat, married a veteran, and now has four children, a Golden Retriever, and a Maltese Menace. She has a BS in Psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers. Her novels include Dead Reckoning, a spy thriller, and Nightshade, Discarded Heroes Book #1.

Ronie can be found at www.roniekendig.com or www.discardedheroes.com

Carol Awards. Christy’s. RITAs. New York Times Bestseller.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of writing-related accolades and awards. And there are a gazillion and one authors vying for them.

My first book released 5 months ago, and I’ve found myself really examining the meaning of “success” since then. As you may have read in one of my earlier posts, within 6 weeks of that release, I was ready to walk away from writing. I’d had it. With the critics. With the process. With the marketing (I heard a lot of OORAHs there). With feeling so absolutely drained as I killed myself trying to market my first novel.

I had a long talk with my agent, Steve Laube, and even alluded to the fact that maybe I wasn’t going to make it as an author if I’d already “failed.” I think he wanted to slap me—or push me off the ledge I was standing on. Instead, he firmly but kindly told me that I was entirely too new in this game to even consider my “success” yet.

And this whole success thing brought me back to my tendency toward people-pleasing. Anyone who knows me also knows that I literally get sick at the thought of hurting someone or making them mad at me. So, as an author, when I see the sales aren’t quite what I’d hoped—and sometimes, far from it—I wonder why they don’t like me.

Really, I need to snap the neck on that beast.

Disillusionment over having crossed the proverbial line from “unpublished” to “published” made me ask myself questions I’d asked before, but this time they held a new light—Is this really the career I want, one laden with those needling personalities who derive pleasure from bursting others’ bubbles? One doused with sometimes-brutal edits? One that has changed to now put a greater burden of marketing is heaped on the back of the author (which is really bad for me since any kind of “sales” makes me feel disingenuous—if I’m your friend, it’s because we’re friends, not because you bought my book!!).

It broke my heart to ask those questions because I felt ashamed of myself and unfaithful to the “mission.” But I had to face the hard issues, examine my heart/mind in pursuit of the goal and my future as a writer. I’m not a person who walks away from challenges. If I did, then why was I fighting in the first place? Either I believe I’m a writer for and with a purpose, or I’m seeking this dream for another reason—self glorification? Pride?—the thought pulled me up short.

Why am I writing?

C.S. Lewis wrote a letter to Arthur Greeves and in it, Lewis said:

I am sure that some are born to write as trees are born to bear leaves: for these, writing is a necessary mode of their own development. If the impulse to write survives the hope of success, then one is among these. If not, then the impulse was at best only pardonable vanity, and it will certainly disappear when the hope is withdrawn.

Touché! “If the impulse to write survives the hope of success. . .” That’s it right there—at least for me. Will you still write even if you don’t succeed? If you don’t hit the bestseller list.

I remember standing in front of the books at Target one evening while my twins scoured the toy section. My husband and I were on the phone talking, and he asked me, “What if you never hit a bestseller list? Will you keep writing?”

The thought felt like an uppercut into my gut.

Although the thought of never reaching a bestseller list was painful and took some time to answer, I knew without a doubt that I would continue writing. Accolades, awards, affirmation. . .they are not why I’m writing (but they’re very nice, and no, I wouldn’t refuse them). But the reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of writers who never attain awards or recognition.

Perhaps the question for you is—what if you don’t get this manuscript published? Will you keep writing?

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ~Ray Bradbury

Staying “drunk” on writing is so very vital. Perhaps I haven’t imbibed enough lately. *grins*

Literary agent, Chip MacGregor recently posted a great article on his blog called “What is Success?”. For me, his post was extremely helpful. I realized I needed to establish more goals and get back in the saddle and start riding. . .er, writing.

But tell me…why are YOU writing? Are you struggling with the idea of “success” too? Please–someone, tell me I’m not alone. 😀