Five Bad Reasons to Become a Writer
You know, I am told there are lots of reasons for becoming a writer. I am literally told this, all the time; I could be sitting in the woods in the middle of a thunderstorm in the dead of night, and I will hear an “Oi! Do you know why I became a writer?” (Large gasp of air…there is a storm going on and I am in a tree after all.) “It’s because…” If I am lucky, the words will trail off, although often they won’t. Anyway, whenever I hear these reasons for becoming a writer, I squirm a little uncomfortably and nod in the same fashion as a sociopath…
“I know if I become a bestseller, I won’t have to work anymore.”
Hey now, whoever told you this is a liar; they have looked you in the eyes and lied to you. “What a mean person!” I hear you exclaim. Yes, they are, but allow me to set the record straight. On average, an author might keep 10-12%, 15% if they are lucky, of each unit sold. That means, on average, you keep 50 to 80 pence per book you sell. Another way of looking at it is that you need to sell two to three books to buy one loaf of fancy bread. Basically, selling books is a good way to get your work out there and have people reading your creations, and a great way of creating self-confidence, but realistically, you make pocket change from it.
“I just want to be famous!”
Sorry to burst your bubble, but we are not rock stars. You can tell because the rock stars (and Kanye West) are rock stars. Even the most famous authors in the world aren’t really that well-known (with the exception of a small few like J. K. Rowling). If you ask one hundred people to name a Mark Twain book and to name a Taylor Swift album, I am sure you will get a lot of “He’s the guy with the painted fences from that Futurama episode with the giant brain, right?” and “1989, it’s a great album, every song on it is a banger.” Basically, you’re better off on a killing spree than being a writer if you fancy a spot of fame.
“I want everyone to see how clever I am.”
Really? The fragility of our egos is astounding; I know that as well as anyone. But forcing people to see how clever you are, or how clever your wordplay is, will eventually bore them into an early grave. Try writing from the heart as opposed to the head. If you have something clever to say, say it naturally; don’t ram it down people’s throats.
“People only understand me through my writing.”
I’m afraid you just have poor communication skills, but you know what, that’s okay. The reason your writing allows people to understand what you mean is because you can take your time considering your words carefully and elegantly edit your work. You can have the same freedom when speaking to other people if you take a pause before you speak to consider how much value you want to place on your words, and what they mean to you as well as what they mean to other people.
“I’m no good at anything else.”
Easy now. For starters, I am sure there are plenty of other things you are good at; you just have to look at them from outside the box. I used to know a chap who could ace any interview but was terrible at every job he did until he became a public speaker and his career took off. I used to know a woman who got no work experience anywhere until she started telling people she had been in hospitality for four years, when she had actually been cooking and waiting on her family. You’re good at lots of things; you just need to find them.
The other thing is, you are selling writing short if you think you can’t do anything else so will do this as a last resort. Writing takes a tremendous skill, one that needs to be honed. By all means start your writing journey whenever you want to, but just try and start it because you want to, because you love the craft, love words, want to tell a story, or just enjoy it.
To wrap up: realistically, there are no right and wrong reasons for being a writer, there are just some realisations that you make as a writer, and it is best to spot those early on to avoid any disappointment in the future.
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© 2018 Alex Vellis
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Alex Vellis is an award winning poet, published author, and playwright from Canterbury, Kent.