Maybe you shouldn’t be a writer

[Excerpted from Who Will Read Your Book?  The Unknown Writer’s Guide to the Realities of Writing & Publishing forthcoming from Patricia Parsons]

This is worth considering.  If you want to be a writer, and are considering who you are as a writer, it might be a useful exercise to consider all the reasons you shouldn’t write a book.  If you do this and at the end still believe that you should write your book and work to get it published, then you’ll be stronger as you move through the process.

Lots of people have put together lists of why you shouldn’t write. For example Susannah Breslin, writing in Forbes online, suggests the following three reasons you shouldn’t write: (1) you’re not good at it; (2) it’s too hard; and (3) it’s too hard to make money.[i] These are all valid points in my view. What’s so interesting is that in a later post, she says that her short piece on why you shouldn’t be a writer is the one that readers hated most.[ii]  It seems those who want to write a book don’t want to be told the reasons why they shouldn’t pursue it.  But you do need to hear this before you move forward.

Blogger Karen Yates has a few more ideas about why you shouldn’t write that book.  She suggests that you back away from that computer if (1) you want to write because you think it will be fun or easy; (2) you want to write because you have a lot of Twitter followers; (3) you think the topic is one you think you can sell even if you’re not passionate about it; (4) if you can’t take criticism (she says editorial: I think you need to have a thick skin in general); and/or (5) you’re not willing to promote your book.[iii] Again, these are all good considerations.

After a couple of decades of writing books myself, I’ve determined that people should write if they want to: what they shouldn’t necessarily do is publish.  If you want to write, remember that it will be a difficult process, but go ahead regardless of what anyone tells you.  Then take that manuscript and put it away to read in your dotage.  Don’t try to sell it to a publisher, and under no circumstances should you self-publish it. That is unless you remember the following which are my personal reasons that should give wannabe writers pause.

Do not publish your writing even one of the following statements applies to you:

  1. You’re writing as a form of catharsis. That’s what your private, personal journals are for.
  2. You’re writing because you’re angry about something. At least don’t publish anything until the anger subsides and you can look at the matter more objectively.
  3. You’re writing on a topic only because you think it will sell. If you are not passionate about it, it’s not worth writing about.
  4. You don’t believe that writers read. Any published writer worth his or her salt reads a lot and reads widely.
  5. You aren’t willing to do the research that will be necessary regardless of genre.
  6. You aren’t willing to work to continually improve your writing.
  7. You think that you’ll simply sit down in front of the computer and the words will flow.
  8. You can’t stand revising.
  9. You don’t have a thick skin.
  10. You spend more time talking to others in person and online about your writing than you do writing.

Once you have looked inward and can honestly say that none of these statements applies to you, it’s time to get on with finishing your book.

 

[i] Susannah Breslin.  Why you shouldn’t’ be a writer. Forbes online.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/susannahbreslin/2012/06/12/why-you-shouldnt-be-a-writer/

[ii] Susannah Breslin. Why you should be a writer. Forbes online. http://www.forbes.com/sites/susannahbreslin/2013/03/30/why-you-should-be-a-writer-2/

[iii] Karen Yates. 5 reasons you shouldn’t write that book.  http://goo.gl/S8L05l

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. I have read four books this past week. Three of these would not have existed if they had taken your (and the quoted) advice. I have just come to the conclusion that since I can’t even put the worst reading book down until it’s done, I will never read another book written by a comedian or twitter sensation again.

    The thought that publishers will so willingly take a risk to publish garbage because the name will sell is a dangerous game to play at.

    1. Hi Wendy, thanks for weighing in. I’d love to know which of the pieces of advice were ignored to result in what I infer from your comment are books not to be put down. Wondering if at the end you thought the author ought to have followed the advice. I’m not clear.

      To your final point: In my view some (but not all) publishers have always published “garbage” if they thought there would be a market for it. These days there will always be a market for drivel written by “names.” However, there is so much more noise in the publishing environment these days as a result of unedited indie works. I have no objection whatsoever to self-publishing — I do have an aversion to shoddy work. Yes, it is a ‘dangerous’ path.

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