…this sabbatical to bring you a little philosophy, on writing.
I was chatting with another author this morning (always fun), and we were discussing philosophy as to why we each write. I think the motives for each writer are different. They might even be different from book to book. Here are mine, in general.
Social Capital -There’s more kinds of capital these days than just financial. Seth Godin argues the new writers are building tribes or communities around books, and that is the true value of writing. As I have shared with you before, I think books are the new business cards. What do I mean by that? Simply that if you honestly in your gut or heart think your book needs to be written, then you need to write it, and honestly, the rest will eventually take care of itself. Also, writing a book gives you some street cred. While the hard core business people out there might disagree with me, that’s OK. I’m more interested in the relationships I’m forming while writing a project, and highly value these relationships. Sometimes, they are also tough to equate to money…and I’m fine with that too. Others might not be. To them I say this: contacts can become contracts. Touche.
Learning – I first develop a book idea when I can’t find something that I personally want to learn about. I figure if I’m out there in this wacky universe trying to learn about something and there are no resources that exist, it is time to create a resource. And, of course, when I involve rock stars in my books, I learn so much more by just understanding who I’m interviewing, what motivates them, makes them tick, etc. In turn, I try to apply those nuggets to my own work and life. I love to learn, and probably learn a ton more by writing a book than just reading one. I also personally believe that you are your surroundings. So, why not study rock stars rather than be bogged down in negative and stagnant thinking?
Therapy – just like this blog post, when I write around a particular subject, I get to develop my own personal philosophy around the subject. That helps me think through the rest of my life – might be the same as learning, but to me, it is somewhat different. Passion really can’t be learned. It is there, or it isn’t. This might be a lower brained response–trusting and developing your “gut”, but whatever you want to call it, I love how writing helps me think through ideas and viewing other ways of how people do things. What I think and how I feel about a subject are theories I develop in my gut as I go through the project. Dig.
Help -this might only apply to nonfiction writers, but I love helping people by arming them with the info in my books. This might go back to social capital, or not. But at the end of the day, with my books, if I can help just one person connect more with the subject matter, I feel like I’ve been a “successful” writer.
Fun – of all the things I do, I love to write the most. Yes, I can speak, and yes, I do other things. But when hours go by and I don’t notice, I’m usually writing something. I love to write, and doing what you love is grossly important, because our time here is finite. Spend it doing something you love, rather than doing things you can’t stand. Besides, I think there was a little best seller about doing what you love and the money will follow, if I’m not mistaken…
Reading – there is nothing more besides writing that I love to do more than reading. I love and collect awesome ideas. Through reading what I’m writing, I’m also gaining some benefits too. Reading is fun!
Money – and lastly, yes, money is nice, we all like it, and it can be utilized as a tool to give us resources to do the things we want to do. Making money from books is a good thing, but I cannot honestly say I write books only to make money. If I’m honest with myself, it’s probably not even a primary motive. As I articulated above, there’s more to it than just money. But if you’re writing a book to just get rich and make a bunch of money, you’re probably going to be disappointed in the end. To all my aspiring writing friends, I ask them instead, focus on WHY you want to write this book…and there better be more than just one reason of “to make $$”. Because trust me, there will come a point to where you are frustrated, tired, and sick of looking at the manuscript. Your love will get you through. Just making money…? I’m not so certain. Van Gogh certainly didn’t paint for the money, either. Maybe Warhol and Picasso did, and that’s fine.
At the end of the day, whatever your motives may be, fantastic. Great, and I’m stoked you’ve identified them. But if you don’t have them clearly ID’d, you might want to think through it just a bit as you write your first, or 41st book. It will help keep your eyes on the prize….whatever that prize may be.