Today while on my daily walk a question crab crawled behind my eyes. I was looking at the scenery, taking photos of same, tweeting them and all the while there was this feeling – question “Why Write?” The question arose because I’ve been working on a book that I want to complete the first draft by the end of this year. In the background there’s another book I started and restarted many times that I also want to write after this one. A part of me says, just leave them, no one cares if they’re written or not. Why put yourself through all this anguish? Another part of me says, no you have to do it.
But why? Why write?
Do I write for fame? Well, that’s a joke, especially for someone my age. Even if I wasn’t old why would I want it? I love my invisibility. I don’t mind occasionally sticking my head out from the cave into the spotlight for a few seconds – a small spotlight, for a good purpose. To have that light on you every day, that would be torture. There’s a lot to be said about using a fake name. This is why I like Twitter. You can be kinda anonymous, say your stuff and just disappear.
Do I write as a side hustle? To make some extra dollars? That’s another joke when you consider that the average book sales in Australia is 813. This figure is the last time the Australian Bureau of Statistics collected comprehensive data on the publishing industry back in 2003 – 4. In 2015, 20,000 new ISBNs were created of which 390 books sold more than 10,000. Now a best seller, in Australia, is anything over 3000 copies. Hmm….and then you get 10% royalties on the net profit. So, if you have a best seller and sell, say 5000 & net profit of each book is say $15, you will get about $1.50 per book. You’re looking at about $7,500. Now, this is for a big best seller. If average sales is say 1000 you’d make about $1500. If you self publish the earnings are about 60% of net profit. I won’t bother going into details but suffice to say you won’t be making a living from it…unless you are lucky and have a super best seller.
It doesn’t look like I want to write to make money because it won’t make money. The other reason is that just making money doesn’t turn me on.
How about spreading a message, you know, changing the world? Telling people my politics and writing the ideas so that people take them on and hoping more people do it so that there’s a change in the world – for good. Yes, that appeals but it doesn’t require the discipline of writing a book to get those ideas out. I wrote an email Call to Action for the Flotillas of Hope to Nauru. Not a book, just an email. Did it change anything? Yes. John Howard’s conservative Government released 77 asylum seekers due to the Flotillas of Hope. Ideas do change the world and I can see that it’s a good reason to write. However, given that a best selling book in Australia is about 3,000 the chances of my book changing the world is pretty limited. I’d much rather write an email than a book if my purpose in writing it is to change the world.
What about leaving stories for my family and future generations to know who I was after I die? Yes, that’s a good reason to write. Out of all of the reasons so far, this one resonates. But it’s not enough. It doesn’t answer my question “Why Write?” It gives a partial answer but doesn’t explain this inner need to write that I feel.
What if I spent a few years writing my masterpiece and getting it published in the traditional way and no one buys it except family? Well, say my partner, my kids I don’t think would care. I won’t make money on it. I won’t get fame from it. I won’t change the world through it… and my family won’t really be interested.
If there’s a nano chance of achieving any of the above goals from writing, why write? Especially today with the web, print-on-demand and so so easy self-publishing. All of these self-published and traditionally published books flood the world with at least a million new titles every year. Let me say that again, a million new books, every year!
The question arises – is it a waste of time and effort to write a book if only your partner and maybe two others read it? According to publishing metrics if only 3 people buy it, the book is a gigantic failure. So, was it worth the effort to write it and then get it published, either traditionally or self published?
Well, something deep inside me is calling out YES! It’s this voice I hear when I write. It’s not logical, reasonable or even smart. It may even be idiotic but I’m subject to idiotic episodes, as my life demonstrates . What is this voice? Who does it belong to? It’s a voice I’ve listened to when I dropped out of uni, hit the road and traveled around Australia with hardly any money, fallen in love, left jobs, changed direction and sailed 8,000 kms with no prior experience in sailing. This voice can be dangerous to listen to but simultaneously can open a door to amazing adventures and emotional journeys. It is the voice of my heart. Heart? That muscle pumping blood? Maybe that’s where this voice resides, like my mind resides in the brain. Anyway, my heart informs me through feeling that I must do what must be done so that I feel OK. When I don’t listen I get depressed, I get a feeling that I’m dying inside. When I listen to its promptings I feel energised, alive and full of purpose. I have meaning in my life. Put a gag on the voice and I die.
So, why do I write? I write so that I answer the call of the heart. The heart may have other names – the Higher Self, the Muse, the inner god, the Wild One. Whatever name it has I have a need to express and this need is the heart calling me to do so.