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by Patricia Fry

Are You Writing for the Right Reasons?

You don’t travel without a reason. You go someplace to relax, to see the sights, to visit someone or for business.

Most activities are purpose-based. There’s a reason why you make a doctor’s appointment, take a friend to lunch, apply for a job at a particular company, take a class, study, exercise, get married… And there is a reason why you write. In fact, your writing or publishing success depends on that deep down personal reason.

Let’s examine your purpose and determine how it computes into your ultimate success.

1: You write to become somebody. Fame has long been the incentive for some would-be writers, musicians and actors. From afar, the attention, the recognition, the constant kudos seem oh so delicious. You dream of being in the limelight. And it happens. You’ve seen it happen and it could happen for you. However, the odds against it are so huge that it is practically a non issue.

But, as a published author, you can feel like somebody among your family and friends. I’m kind of a celebrity in my community because of my local history books. You could become well-known in your area of expertise. I’m known within the writing/publishing community because I do so much writing within the industry and because of my affiliation with SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network)

If extreme publishing fame is your goal, however, I’d suggest that you pursue a less competitive field.

2: You’re motivated by money. There’s money to be made as a writer—I’ve been supporting myself through writing for over 20 years. Some freelance writers and authors are earning six figure incomes. But I doubt that any of them are in this business purely for the money. With very few exceptions, it takes a lot of promotion, persistence and patience to get anywhere in this business. And a love for writing is a major prerequisite.

I’ve actually seen people try to enter into this field without the talent or the love for writing. Sure you can make money as a writer, but it is not as easy and straightforward as most think. You don’t just sit down and write a wonderful book and become wealthy. It’s often a matter of writing what’s needed, rewriting, meeting deadlines, withstanding rejection and promotion, promotion, promotion.

3: You have something to say. I think that most writers have this in common. And most of us start out by sharing our thoughts and expressing ourselves. While there certainly are some writers who continue to make a good living through opinion columns, for example, this is not a very realistic goal for most. You will succeed in this business only if you are willing to branch out and expand your writing repertoire.

4: You want to change hearts and minds. More people than ever before are writing about their experiences. They want to share, to be validated, to help ease their own personal pain through writing. They want to touch people—to help them—to make them laugh or cry. And most of these people are one-time authors. They plan to write that one book and they are done. Some writers, however, continue writing on their original theme of losing a child, being cured of a disease, overcoming an addiction and so forth. They build a website, launch a newsletter and write articles for magazines, thus building a career as a writer.

5: You want to see your words in print. While this is part of the thrill of writing for most writers, it isn’t a strong enough motivation to stand alone.

6: You write as a teaching tool. Countless people become writers in order to teach their craft or their business. By writing books and/or articles, you can position yourself as an expert in your field. This is certainly a valid reason to become a writer. I know educators, therapists, psychologists, artists and others who have produced books to use in their workshops and classrooms. Some of them continue teaching through magazine articles.

7: You are attracted to what you perceive as the writer’s lifestyle. I’ve been writing for publication for over 30 years and I don’t think I have a lifestyle much different than I would had I gone to work for a large corporation all those many years ago. Actually, I might be retired now and traveling on a large pension. Any lifestyle is whatever you make it. No matter what work you do, you should also be doing the things you love. For me, writing is my love—my passion. I’ve been fortunate enough to find a way to earn a living through my writing. My lifestyle consists of time writing, of course. But much of my time consists of self-promotion, facing rejection, rewriting, pounding the pavement (so to speak) for assignments and freelance work and so forth.

8: You can’t not write. Those who seem to find their place in the world of writing are those with a passion for the process. Their passion motivates them in establishing a writing lifestyle; that is, if they can direct that passion realistically.

Is writing for you? If you love writing and you really want to see your work in print, go for it. But enter into this extremely competitive field with a sense of reality. Publishing success is relative. Attaining the highest level of success is a real crap shoot. There are no guarantees. But I would venture to say that those of you who put in the time and work studying, learning and promoting yourself AND who are willing to be flexible and adaptable, have the greatest chance of grabbing that brass ring.

While I urge you to look toward all possibilities—even fame and fortune, I also want you to be realistic. Write for the right reasons, reach for the top and be prepared for anything.


Patricia Fry is the Executive Director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) and the author of 35 books. See her most recent books in the left column of this page.

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