Friday, January 1, 2010

Why I Write

So I've taken the past month or so off from writing. It's not anything resembling writer's block. I've never had a shortage of ideas and realize it's just a matter of sitting down and doing it. A couple of years ago I was just trying to find a publisher. That happened (I found a few) and it made me extremely happy. Then it was up to me to find readers. I tried pretty much everything I could imagine. Maybe I'm just not that imaginative when it comes to reaching potential readers. That's one of the difficult things about writing. It's a solitary endeavor. I'm a fairly solitary person and it took a lot of time and energy to try and sell my books to people. My first book appeared in February of 2008, nearly 2 years ago. Looking at sales of my books over those two years is one of the most depressing things I do. It could be a lot worse and I'm extremely grateful for every book sold, but it doesn't justify the amount of time and money I've put into it. Yet, starting a new year, I'm looking forward to sitting down and writing again. I'm not doing it for sales. Sales mean a lot to publishers. It actually means a lot to me too. I would love it if my books sold extremely well. But that can't be the reason I write. I've never worked with a large corporate publisher where sales are the "bottom line." I think I'm grateful for that. I've also never written something and thought, "Oh boy, this is going to sell really well." I write books I would want to read. That's my only criterion. If I wouldn't want to read it, it gets scrapped.

When I think about why I write I can't really find an answer that makes sense and I'm okay with that. The world is a vast and nebulous place and, often times, answers only make things less interesting and less dynamic. Focusing on sales and "networking" makes writing a lot like work. If I didn't already have a job that took up 40-plus hours a week and a wife and children I enjoy spending time with, I would have no problem with this aspect of it. While writing is one of the most important things to me, it's the last thing I do. Meaning, if my obsession with the business end of writing bleeds over into all the other things I do, something is out of balance. If, one day, writing turns out to pay better than my day job then I can justify spending more time on it. I have to work a day job to put food on the table and pay bills. I write for myself. It makes me happy. That's the best reason I can think of. Sometimes it makes other people happy, too. I received this email a couple of days after Christmas and, even though it's brief, it put a lot of things into perspective:

"I've recently been introduced to the Bizarro book genre and my roommate gave me The Beard as my Christmas present. It was pretty much the best present ever and you are now one of my favorite authors. I wish I had the genius to think of writing about a beard before you. I particularly enjoy your style of writing because you manage to balance the strange and random with a comprehensible plot that moves along well. I will probably be reading all of your other books. Thank you for brightening my otherwise depressing Christmas with a good book.

Elise S."

A few days before that, I received a highly entertaining review from writer Jim Gavin. You can read it on his blog.

So while I write for myself, knowing that it reaches other readers and, for whatever reason, means enough to them to take time out from their day to write something about it is an even bigger bonus. It makes it less solitary. It adds depth and reality and meaning to all those quiet nights spent scribbling in a notebook.

This blog has become a dismal place. When I look over the entries from the past year or so, it reeks of desperation and salesmanship. The time I've spent befriending people on Goodreads and Facebook, et. al. is probably embarrassing. I can justify it by thinking it's just a relatively new author excited about being published and, really, if I don't tell you about my book, who will? Because it's not like the small press has any PR fleets or anything. But I have to prioritize things. I don't have the time to try and sell you shit and you're tired of having shit sold to you. So other than the occasional book announcement (hopefully), there won't be any of that this year. Maybe some free fiction and half-witted musings on things but, other than that, I'm going to go back to 1. living my life and 2. writing. In the end, those are the only things I really know how to do.

Happy New Year and thanks for sticking around.


Chris Bowsman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Bowsman said...

Blogger Chris Bowsman said...

I wouldn't feel too bad about trying to sell your books. As you said, nobody else is going to.

You're right in that people are tired of having shit sold to them, but I think authors selling readers their books is an exception. I certainly don't mind giving somebody a minute to convince me to read their stuff, because, you know, it's not like I every bookshelf in my house is overflowing already, and even if I lived to be 100, I'd never have time to read all the books I'm constantly buying...

Anyway, according to my iPod, I'm 72% through The Beard, and according to me, I'm enjoying it immensely. Sometime in the near future, I'm going to be hitting you up for signed copies of your others.