After I published my first book, an ex-friend felt she had to explain the perils of publishing to me. I’ve heard it before. She went on about all the books being published today and that most of them never sell and so on and so on. Doom and gloom. You’ve heard it before, too. She was trying to make a point that I’ve never make any money writing books. Then she asked me how I ever expected to sell my books in such a competitive market?
First of all, I told her, I don’t sell books, I write them. Maybe my books will sell, maybe they won’t. I hope they do. I hope I can make money writing books. But if I don’t, I can feel good about creating something that will outlive me and perhaps make a difference in someone’s life a hundred years from now.
“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
When I’m writing, I feel good. When I’m writing good, I’m lost in a wild dream where the story, the words, and I travel freely across the universe on cloud 9. And sometimes, I’m so lost in my writing, I lose control of the words I’m writing. They laugh, sing, dance on the page, play hide and seek, musical chairs, ring around the rosy, somersault over sentences and across paragraphs, leaving me exhausted and exuberant and that’s when I know I’m doing my best writing.
“Success is a finished book, a stack of pages each of which is filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world.”
— Tom Clancy
Authors ultimately measure their success in book sales. But I agree with Mr. Clancy. Just completing a book is a success. I’ve done a lot of things in my life just to say I can do this. I believe one of the reasons I started writing books was to prove to myself I could do it.
I’m not a best selling author. I’m not an award winning writer (though early in my career, I did win a few journalism awards). People aren’t clamoring to buy my books. Did you know that the great Bruce Lee never won a martial arts competition? He never held a belt. He didn’t compete. He was too busy improving his art and developing his own style of martial arts and becoming one of the greatest innovators the martial arts world has known. So I may never be an award winning, best selling author, but I will continue to write and improve on my writing and do my best to be an innovator of my own writing style.
This question was raised in a Facebook group this week: if you’re not earning much from writing, does that make it a hobby rather than a serious pursuit? My gut reaction was ‘no’, and I’d like to examine why. What follows will be a few attempts at definitions, a few assumptions – and I want this to be the start of a discussion rather than the last word. So do let me have your thoughts at the end.
First, let me state that when I use the term ‘hobby’, I’m not suggesting a pastime that isn’t serious. I have hobbies that matter greatly to my enjoyment of life. I ride horses and I attend dance classes at Pineapple Studios in London. My weekly schedule is constructed to accommodate these activities. They are essential outlets in a cerebral, sedentary life and they ensure my general wellbeing. I…
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