Monday, November 2, 2015

The Point to Being a Writer

It's been a while since I did one of these sorts of posts, but I think this is a good time to bring it up. Again. See, I do mention this every now and then.

But then, writers need reminding of this every so often. I'm especially looking at you guys who (like me) have big goals and things to achieve.

See, goals are a good thing. I truly believe they are. They give us something to work towards, which gives us purpose. This purpose gives us determination and determination (and quite a bit of dumb luck) is what sees us through.

All very good things.

However goals can become millstones around our necks. They weigh us down with the sheer amount of measurable things we did not achieve. Or make us highly aware of how far we are from where we've seen ourselves at the end of some arbitrarily chosen moment. (End of the year, at the end of five years, etc.)

This millstone effect affects most people, but for writers and other artists, there's an extra danger: It can and does kill our creativity.

Everyone's motivation for writing differs a little bit. Often, we write for a variety of reasons. Maybe just because you like reading and thought it would be fun to write and it was. Maybe you have this huge drive to produce something, anything or your life just doesn't feel complete. Or you need to write to process your emotions. And so on.

A lot of us find that, even if there are all these wonderful reasons to write, we just never seem to spend enough time on actually doing it. TV creeps in. Facebook sucks up time. All those million little distractions gang up on us and if we're not careful, whole days go by without us writing. Which isn't good.

Goal setting with accountability makes us careful with out time. We want to have something to show those we are accountable to, so we start building habits of carving out writing time for ourselves. See? It is a good thing.

But the flip side is that sometimes, through no fault of our own, we just can't make those goals. Usually, it takes only a short moment of introspection to recognize when that's happened. You don't say "I wanted to write, but those crazy cat pictures took over my life and I just couldn't." But when things higher up on your priority list comes up (e.g. in matters of survival, or family issues, health issues etc.), there will be times when you. just. can't.

This is perfectly fine, but those goals still loom and suddenly, people are asking: "Oh, what's the point?"

And then they're miserable. Because suddenly, nothing they've done is good enough. Now nothing they've written gets them anywhere and writing becomes this pointless cause of self flagellation until we're not even sure we like being writers anymore.

So. Because I've been seeing a lot of you guys talking about this lately, I decided to be awesome and answer your question...

Whats the point? 


Not earning a living from our writing. (That's the point of publishing, but that's not the matter at hand.) Not becoming a bestselling writer. (Nice, but not the point.) Not publishing to schedule because some other blogger said you need a certain rate of output to succeed. 

I repeat. 


Your love of writing should be the be all and end all of all points when you're a writer, or you're toast. See here's the thing. It's okay to want to make a living at what you love (which is what seems to be the root of all these issues we're having), but when the expectations you set of yourself to make it happen makes you unhappy, you can't blame that thing you love for your unhappiness. 

Your expectations are the problem. 


What to do to straighten out your concerns about writing and find some semblance of serenity? 

I propose a one-round game of Would You Rather. 

If publishing was never an option to you, ever,
Would you rather...

Continue writing anyway
Stop writing and do something else? 

Now adjust your life and/or thinking accordingly.

You're welcome. 


  1. Write away at my bay come what may. Not saying I'll always keep the same schedule as life does get in the way sometimes, but I'll keep on writing in one form or another.

  2. It's is easy to forget why we do it and get caught up in meeting goals. I'm a goal setter, but I try to keep a level head in case I don't meet my goals.

  3. I have stories I want to share, so if publishing wasn't an option, I wouldn't write. It's too time consuming if there wasn't some sort of a payoff--at least for me.

  4. Here, here! I'm pounding my desk in agreement. Writing itself is enough alone.

  5. My writing, through out my life, has been so sporadic that I would probably continue with it just as I do now. My goal has never been to publish for publishing's sake or to be famous or to make money. It's been more about doing it to see if I could/can, doing it simply because I wanted to. I suppose if I had really wanted to delve into something else other than writing, I would want to do more with my singing and playing the guitar.

  6. Misha, I am with you... I don't write to make a living... I write because I have a need to put things in writing... it helps me see things clearer and I hope that with that I can help other people xox

    I agree with you, do what you love xox

  7. Thank you so much for this post, Misha - feel like this is something I really needed to hear today! I would totally 'continue writing anyway' - I'm a writer down to my bones and being published or not being published/a bestseller/a commercial success will never change that :).

  8. If you've got a great imagination then by gum getting it all down on paper is a cinch. I think it was Albert Einstein who believed imagination is the true sign of intelligence.

  9. I love this. Writing is totally the point for me. Sometimes I get worked up because it's all going wrong, but at the end of the day sitting with a pen and notebook is one of my favourite things.

  10. Thank you for bringing a smile to my face. I did not start NaNo yesterday with everybody else. I wasn't sure I would start today. But I did, and so far have 2,002 words so far. A month from now, when I look back on what I wrote from this point on, it will be interesting to see if it is 'angrier' than what is already written. Earlier this afternoon, a woman stole my children's game from our cart in the WalMart parking lot in Stanford, KY. *ARGH*

    This is the kind of thing in the past that I would have let distract and derail me. Not this time.

  11. Ah yes, This is a thing I agree with. I've known this, but it's good to be reminded of it every now and then. We sometimes get the idea that there's more to it than just telling our stories.

    Also, I love that you state the obvious: if you don't like writing, try something else. I see people torturing themselves with writing all the time. I wish they'd move on to something that makes them happier.

  12. I get more writing done when I do it at my own pace, without a schedule. Sometimes its hard to keep writing, but i just enjoy the the progress I've made.

  13. Pat, sometimes a flexible schedule is best. I also try to not fall into too much of a routine, since my life chops and changes quite a lot thanks to my job.

    TBM a level head is the best way to keep goals in perspective.

    Thanks Karen!

    Interesting point of view, Terry. I hope the pay-offs keep coming. :-)

    Glad you agree, Christine! ^_^

    Bish, I also love singing, but I just can't seem to sit still long enough to learn how to play the guitar properly.

    Launna, I'm the same. Even if my fiction writing is very different from my life, writing those scenes do help me in some way to make sense of my experiences.

    I'm glad I wrote the post if it's something you needed to read, Rachel. :-) I think all writers who are serious about writing need this reminder at some point.

    Spacerguy, I have to say I agree with Einstein, but even with my huge imagination, putting words to paper isn't always as easy as one would expect.

    Annalisa, I'm the same. I went through a bit of a crisis toward the end of last year when I couldn't get the books I'd wanted published. But then I realized that actually, it wouldn't matter, because the writing on its own is a reward in itself. Being published and having people love what you've written is a nice change.

    LuAnn, that's terrible! I'm glad you managed to channel your anger into something productive. :-)

    Rena, it really should be that easy. I think, though, that people often get confused, because they're trained by life to think that it's okay to be unhappy in what they do, as long as they get money for it.

    Dolorah, the important thing is that you have a working method. Other than that, everything is icing on the cake. :-)

  14. Many writers have different reasons for writing, different expectations, and different goals. Some are more driven than others. Some just want to do something that makes them happy. It's nice that self-publishing allows people to realize their dreams. Or at least try. :)

  15. I love this message, Misha. Thank you. We have to be flexible with ourselves. I have loose writing and other life goals in mind, and I allow myself to stray from them all the time. I don't beat myself up for that. I know, too, that when I'm truly committed to a goal, like writing a book and writing - say - the first chapter or page by a certain date, I'll most likely make it happen. But life interferes. This isn't bad. This just gives us more writing material. As you say, writing is the point.

  16. Absolutely yes, and wonderfully said. We both agree with you 100%. It's all about writing. Money and fame and publication come after, and if it doesn't, oh well.

    A few years back, a girl in our local writing club self published a book and then complained that her royalties from one month weren't even enough to pay her electric bill. She was genuinely miserable about this. It ruffled her feathers a little, but I asked her, so why are you even writing? If it's just to pay your power bill, it's not for the right reasons, and you're never going to be happy.

  17. Wonderfully said. And I've said something similar myself to others. I know in order to keep writing, I have to make my goals small. So terribly small. I always surpass them, but when life happens around them, I don't feel so bad for just meeting the smallest goal. I have written every single day for the past 10 plus years. Every. single. day. I have not missed one day. When my dad died, I wrote him a poem. When a dog attacked me and I had to sit for hours in the ER I read articles about writing. It counted, since my goals are that small.

  18. I actually think writing without the publishing aspect is a lot more enjoyable. As much as I want to get my words out there, you're right - it's the industry and the expectations we place on ourselves that make us miserable.

    When I was a kid, I wrote stories for the fun of it, and I loved every minute. Keeping that joy when writing is your job can be difficult.

    Thanks for this post. It was thought provoking in a very good way.

  19. I have "given up" writing before, to make a living, and I made it, though wasn't as happy as when I was writing, most of the time. Because you are right in all that you said. Expectations kill the drive and blaming the love is wrong. My husband says he can always tell when I have a good writing day because I am happy in a different way.

  20. LOL! And Misha brings the hammer. =) My hubby has asked me several times if I would quit writing if I never got published. The answer was no. He said we might as well get me published then.

  21. Good point about the point of writing and the point of publishing being very different things.

    I like writing and I'd keep doing it even if I didn't seem to be gaining anything more than words on the hardrive.

  22. That is an awesome way to boil it down, Misha. I love to write just because I can write the stories I really want to read only no one else has written them yet. I've only just recently realized that again, too. For a long time I wanted to make a living writing, but I have totally let that go and guess what? I love writing again and I'm writing like crazy. I'd rather be writing for fun and working to pay the bills, really. I hope your new job is going well!

  23. Fantastic points and something that I battle with everyday. "Why didn't I write more?" "I need to publish a new book by X day." "I should finish this thing so I can do that thing." They are constant thoughts that, as a writer, you need to be able to step away from and remember what and why you're doing it.

  24. They are some very interesting thoughts!

  25. Yes, a great reminder that writing itself is the point - not $ or word count or cult of personality.

  26. Misha, thank you for a fabulous post. Learning to be kind to oneself is so important. Sometimes in the morning, I wander back and forth trying to find the zone before I sit down at my desk. And when I don't find the zone, I can find myself getting frustrated or disappointed. Relax, have a cup of tea, or look out the window, breath.

  27. I don't think I could ever stop writing. Many things I write don't become published. Sometimes I'm hard on myself about my goals. They do keep me on track, but I loosen up with them since I have non-writing things I do.

  28. This post was really a big pick-me-up for today. Because I never planned on being published, I never planned on even trying. Now it's a part of my dream, but a small part. Ultimately... I just want to tell a story. A good story. :)
    So thank you for this! It's an important reminder.


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