The Perks of Being a Writer
I was at an event yesterday where I saw lots of people I hadn't seen for a long time. The question that often comes up is "Are you still writing?" My answer, of course, is "Yes," but I sense that some wonder why. In twenty years, I haven't become a famous writer, and I probably never will. (FYI, I haven't become rich, either.) Why put in the hours and hours (et cetera, et cetera) it takes to write a book, edit a book, and publish a book?
I write for the same reasons anyone does what they love: crafters, bakers, amateur athletes, bird-watchers, whoever. It isn't for money or recognition; it's something they call self-fulfillment--the enjoyment of putting effort into something to get the best result you can manage.
There are some side perks to writing for publication, though, and a message I got this morning told me I'm not as crafty as I imagined. A reader who knows me well pointed out that the "bad" characters in one of my books are suspiciously similar to people I know in real life. They don't prosper in the story, so it's a bit of getting my own back. To be fair, another reader told me that a lead character I've been writing reminds her of my mother, so I guess I'm capable of writing tributes as well as take-downs.
Another side perk is making things end the way I want them to. In real life, good doesn't always prevail. We see a lot of misinformed people (and downright liars) in high positions, offering "alternative facts" that would be laughed into the dirt if their listeners weren't equally misinformed and stubbornly unwilling to do the tiniest bit of fact-checking. In a novel, I can make good things happen at the end, despite my belief that IRL,things are too far out of control for recovery.
Finally, I can escape into my books, my writing, my storytelling. The school where I used to teach is afire with controversy, and while I do what I can to inform myself and support the staff, I find it helpful--maybe critical--to come home and sink into whatever part of the writing process I'm involved in at the moment.
So am I still writing? Yes. Not famous. Not rich. But it makes me happy. What more can I ask of life?