Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Would You Write Anyway?

I've heard various versions of the question of whether you would continue to write if you knew absolutely-for-sure that your work would never be published. Self-publishing has made the question irrelevant. It's far easier to put together an ebook, a website, a blog, than it is to write a book in the first place.

The question is worth consideration, nonetheless, because it gets at some fundamental issues. For whom are we writing? How important is it to be told how wonderful our work is? Are we writing because we love story-telling or because we have a message we want to communicate (in which case, an audience is essential to our feeling of satisfaction)? Is our writing a way of generating income? (Don't scoff; I've met middling-successful writers who admit as much.)

I think that for most of us, there's a combination of motives.I derive a great deal of pleasure when I know what I've just written is good (that thrill of reading it over and going, OMG I wrote this and it's wonderful!) and sometimes I don't care that anyone else thinks so. It's enough that I'm pleased with what I've produced. But realistically, I would not be able to write as well as I sometimes can if I had not had critical feedback from others--lots and lots of it over the years. These others have been editors, fans, fellow workshoppers, trusted readers, other writers, reviewers whom I've never met but nonetheless offered insightful and sometimes extremely painful commentary. I owe them all more than I can say. I haven't written in a vacuum.

Mostly, I love feedback, or rather, I love most feedback. We'll forget the idiot reviews by people who obviously have not even read the book. Or who have some other axe to grind, but that's another topic. The short version is, if the topic (usually but not always related to queer issues) irritates you, don't blame the quality of the writing. Tackle your demons head-on.

I've gotten letters that bring tears to my eyes, to know that my work has touched them that deeply and made such a difference in their lives. Reaching so many readers, people I'd never have the chance to meet in person, is one of the special gifts of being published.

On the other hand, if you were to ask me if I'd keep writing now if all my work would stay in a drawer, the answer would be yes. It doesn't have to be for everyone. I'm just one of those writers who finds the act of creation, both the exercise of hard-won skill and the stories themselves, so deeply satisfying that I'm willing to keep doing it even without the joys of connecting to readers (not to mention seeing my name in print and holding a book, thinking I wrote this!


  1. Yes.

    All these things keep swirling around in my head, and I have to write them down or else my brain is going to explode. The years where I could not write were an agony. Hoping those days are through --

  2. I hear you about not being able to write. It has happened to me, and to far greater writers than I will ever be. I also hope those days are over for you--permanently!