The Beginning and the End

Writers cannot write for praise from readers, friends, family, or critics. The quickest way to kill anything you are writing is to stare at your page or screen and wonder, “What will THEY think of it?” They – whoever They are – aren’t there, and so you can’t know what They will think, and so you cannot answer this insidious question. As long as you are asking it, you are probably not writing. That said, hearing from appreciative readers can be very helpful. It is easy as a writer to become preoccupied with how successful a piece of work is, to become preoccupied with whether or not a story sold, and if so for how much; to become preoccupied with how many copies of it have been bought, or with its ranking on Amazon. It is easy, being a human being who depends on such things, to become preoccupied with the numbers in your bank account and how these numbers are affected by the stories you have written.

It is tempting because all these things are measurable, and humans have developed a relentless love of measuring things – including, unfortunately, themselves. Yes, it’s no fun to be measured last and worst, but this is the price we all seem to be willing to pay so that we might be measured first or best.

Which is why it’s good from time to time to hear from an appreciative reader. To hear someone say, “I loved your book,” or, “It was just what I needed,” or, “It kept me up all night turning the pages,” can remind a writer why he or she picked up the pen in the first place: because we had something valuable we wanted to share with other people. Yes, there would be money and praise and maybe fame – but first there was that, the immeasurable impulse to increase the quantity of good in the world.

I know this sounds a bit altruistic, I know publishing is a business, I know everyone needs to make ends meet, but that cannot alter where this work begins, and where, in the end, we must return to every day at our desk.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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