Yesterday, when I was texting with a dear friend of mine who has been quite influential in my life and career, I shared with him that I was taking a break from writing for a bit. Which, as you know, if you’ve followed along thus far in my tales of woe, really means that I became burned out doing book promotion as opposed to book writing. Anyway, he asked me this question at end of our text thread:
Do you write to sell or do you write to tell good stories?
I looked at what he had written for a long time, pensively, unsure as to how I would answer that question, because it’s a good one to ask. It made me pause and reconsider everything. It’s tricky because there are many components to it, but let me do my best to answer, and then, if there are any other writers out there reading this, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. I think all writers should be forced once in a while to examine why they write…why they slave away doing what they do. Therefore, I decided to enumerate my top four reasons for my own sake, with a caveat about the whole writing life exercise in one #5 summation.
#1- I write to tell good stories. I have been writing stories since I can remember, telling stories for longer, and wanting to publish a book since the age of 13. I love the whole aspect of storytelling, of a tightly woven narrative, and of the clarity needed to tell a well-constructed story. I write to tell good stories, for sure, and it is at the crux of why I write.
#2- I write to show my students that I actually practice what I preach. If you have me or have had me as a teacher at Stevenson University, I hope you can verify that I am passionate about writing–about being able to articulate your thoughts on paper. It’s a skill that is imperative today. Being a clear writer means you have clarity of thought; you are a critical thinker who knows how to communicate. This skill takes you places in business for sure. A recent survey that polled top executives in large companies proved that the two skills employers want to see in candidates are the ability to write and the ability to speak and present in public. My job is to help both facets, with an emphasis on writing. Being able to show my students four books I have written serves as an example that I do, in fact, practice what I preach.
#3- I write as a creative outlet. I think of myself as a creative person even though I can’t draw or paint. My creativity comes in the forms of words and storytelling (and even blogging)! If I don’t have this outlet, something feels off in my life. It has become and will continue to be an outlet for the fostering and release of creativity.
#4- I write to make people happy. Being able to communicate here on the blog to an audience or through my novels seems to make people happy and that, in turn, makes me happy. Last night at a book club where members had read my novel, Inn Significant, the ladies told me I had a gift for storytelling (and they also liked the happy ending). Again–why not bring some happiness into the world? There’s plenty for us to be sad or angry about already, so a bit of joy in the form of a novel is a good thing.
Now, here’s the caveat:
#5- Writers need readers. And it’s not so much about selling as it is just having readership. We write to share stories and to be read. We write to connect with people. But in order for that to happen, we actually need some readers. And it was the constant time spent soliciting readers that was beginning to kill my spirit.
But when I look at this all now, a couple of weeks after my little meltdown, I may need to rethink my writing, strategy, and approach.
I’m being quite frank and candid about my writing philosophy. To those other independent authors and those with small presses—Why Do You Write?
Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.