Writers are often asked why we write the books we write. I can’t speak for all writers, but I can speak for this writer, and the answer to this question, is both simple and complex.
I have one writing rule: I will not write a book I don’t love. Why? Because it takes time, energy, discipline, and determination to start and finish a book, and to infuse it with something worth reading. The most important thing I have to share is love for what is in a book. My time is my life. It is important to me, and I won’t waste it on writing something I don’t feel holds value. That’s the simple part of the answer.
The complex part begins with purpose. Why write the specific book? Why write it now?
Most novels begin in a burst of enthusiasm. The fire and desire to write the story is so strong, I just can’t wait a second longer to see the story unfold on the page. But that starts a book. It doesn’t finish it. What does?
Maybe the writer has something to say s/he wants others to hear. Needs others to hear. Something s/he prays others will hear.
Maybe the writer is writing through a dark tunnel seeking light at the end of it, certain if s/he can find a constructive way to navigate a challenge, then others will know there is light at the end of the dark tunnel and they’ll believe that if the character found it, they too can navigate their challenge and find the end of the tunnel and the light.
Maybe the writer looks around and everyone is suffering. Broken hearts, broken spirits, burdened minds. They need lifting, entertaining. They need to laugh, to be reminded that there is good and joy in life. There is fun.
Maybe the writer sees many who are muddled or mired down in a maze of “I don’t know what to do, or I don’t know how to do it,” and s/he needs guidance. Through the story, the writer shows how this character faced a similar challenge and the results of the way s/he handled it. This worked, this didn’t, and why.
Writers explore their truths, meaning, the truth about someone or something as s/he sees it, for a purpose. To entertain, to inform, to guide, to share. Regardless of what you do, shouldn’t something that requires so much from you in life be important to you? And anything that is truly important enough to sacrifice to complete—writing always requires the sacrifice of more than just time—then what is strong enough to make it worth doing? Love.
Love infuses the work with compassion. We write with passion, but also with compassion. Love is responsible. It looks for truth and honesty to share with the reader. It forces us to be fair, to play fair, to offer something.
Let me give you an example. I often write big suspense books, often with a military theme, or terrorist activity. The purpose is awareness and constructive coping in a world that wasn’t a part of our lives much before 2001 when it blasted in our faces and we had a lot to learn quickly. I started writing these types of books in 1994, began publishing them in 1995. The vision on our horizon was clear to me, and I studied and researched and worried and wrote . . . and wrote.
Today a lot of students are graduating with bleak job prospects. Or they graduate knowing exactly what they want to do, but can’t get funding to take the risks, jump in and do them. Many are torn between doing what their parents think they should do and what their hearts and minds want them to do. Do they take the advice? Follow their own dreams? How does this stop being a battle of wills without alienation from their families?
In the story, I have a young woman who graduated two years ago, took out a loan from her mother, and started her dream: a card shop. It’s struggling, as new businesses do. And Amanda fears her business is going to fail. That instills fear, shame and resentment because she’ll have to endure all those “I told you so” remarks. Can she trust her own judgment? She isn’t sure.
And that uncertainty carries over into her relationships. Her mother is shoving Bradley at Amanda. He’s suitable in her mother’s eyes and offers security. But he doesn’t touch Amanda emotionally. Jonathan, an illustrator she’s never met beyond email and text messages, touches all her emotions. (She writes the verses for their cards, he illustrates them.) But how does he feel about her? She has no idea.
And then comes Max, the nephew of a customer who encourages Amanda to follow her heart. He bombards Amanda’s emotions, but he has secrets he won’t share.
A woman coming into her own, trying to make her way and find her feet in the world, doubting her own judgment is reliable. A woman with three men in her life and no perfect man for her. . . except one of them is perfect for her. But which one?
Sound familiar? That being torn and unsure and questioning yourself?
That’s why I wrote this story. Because so many are floundering yet trying so hard to build good lives and make wise choices. They need to know that we all struggle with decisions and trusting ourselves at times. That we all must take huge risks—in our careers and with our emotions. That sometimes it’s going to work out, and sometimes it’s not. And often it won’t work out as we expected . . . it’ll be even better.
One thing I can tell you. In over two decades of writing, not once, have I heard any writer say they were writing for the money. Yes, writers want and need money to live as much as everyone else. But money has never been cited to me as the primary reason a writer picks up a pen. Why?
Money alone is never enough. Not for a content life. We all, including writers, need more. Contentment is found in quality of life, in purpose.
So that’s why we write the books we write, from my perspective. Other writers will have different perspectives that include their own personal experiences and motivators and purposes.
Regardless of what you do in life, you have triggers and motivators and purposes for doing what you do the way you do it, and even for when you do it. Do you know what they are?
That’s important. Because in those answers for you, you will find recognition and awareness of purpose and your path, and from it, you can pull the determination and fortitude you need for the courage to follow your dreams and have the heart and conviction to make your dreams your reality.
Because this is vital to your contentment and sense of fulfillment in your life, I leave you with this question: Why do you do what you do?
Take time to answer it. Please. It’ll energize you. Rejuvenate you. And clear a lot of your own confusion that keeps you wrestling with your decisions.