Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Why Would You Even Want to Write a Book?

Opened magic book with magic lightsAsk most writers, and they’ll tell you that the traditional publishing industry is fickle if not unkind; and that self-publishing is a tremendous amount of work for what, in most cases, amounts to the sale of 100 to 200 books. In an age of offerings worth binge watching, time for the written word is receding into an antiquity of independent books stores and rotary dial phones. Technology has the influence and the edge.

So why write a book at all? I’ve asked myself this question in the past year as I’ve slogged through the slow revision and polish process of completing a novel.

I fell in love with stories before I was even in grade school. A slightly inebriated mother with a vivid imagination made up bedtime stories for me that delighted and enlivened my imagination. And the slight hint of vodka that hung in the air was my first understanding that life was interesting, messy and rarely as polite as we try to make it out to be.

Although I was a terrible student in school, English class was my great joy and I couldn’t wait to do the writing assignments. By the time that I was a teenager I was typing the poetry of unrequited love on my baby blue Smith-Corona, trying to bend the words to capture the horrible, beautiful, angst that I felt. Emotions that lived in the captivity of my heart and mind needed to be liberated by carefully chosen words.

There has never been a time in my life when I did not write. Eventually I would earn a degree in creative writing and poetics. I would work an internship at a newspaper and write a few magazine articles before life intervened with marriage and a mortgage. Then one day as I approached retirement, I decided that it was my time to write a book.

And wouldn’t you know it, as I got around to writing that book, technology was sucking the life out of the written word. The fast pace of our techno-driven society had replaced the slow, delicious reading of a story with hand-held screens, communicating in abbreviations and initials. OMG! So much for choosing words carefully. Back to the question: why, when knowing all that would I even want to write a book?

I wrote my book, not because I am a writer, but because I am a storyteller. Yes, writers can construct beautiful prose, but it is stories that connect us. They give us clues into who we are and how we need to be. A good story can change the world.  And even when you strip away the focus and deliberation necessary to read, storytelling must endure. Technology cannot replace story, it can only replace its delivery.

It’s difficult to predict what will happen to books. Clearly there are fewer readers for the novel format. New fiction writers come and go each year with few breaking out into careers with any promise of longevity. Writers must now be marketers too, participating in an Internet that is a cacophony of unrelenting promotional noise to sell their wares. And most of all, one-time readers are turning to other media to involve themselves in story. What will be the result? A book engages the imagination, while the flickering light of stories on a screen requires little engagement at all. In fact, it has an addictive quality to it. Does anyone remember the feeling tone, let alone the details of binge watching, or just the feel-good seduction it has provided?

You and I are meaning seeking creatures, and story gives our world meaning. That is why I write. I see storytelling as sacred art that engages and enrages its audience to think, feel, and reflect. Yes, I would love to be widely distributed and have millions of people read my books, but I’m not convinced that books will survive our technological age. In the event that they don’t, I will keep writing stories anyway. It’s the thing that keeps me in awe about what it is to be human, and provides a sense of purpose.

It will be interesting to see what happens next: from gathering around the fire to tell stories that teach us, to reading books that engage us, to new forms of media that will continue to inform us about our miraculous lives. Whatever delivery system our stories take on in this brave new world, storytelling will remain essential.

Author:

Novelist, essayist, blogger, wife, dog-mommy, dancer, dreamer, grateful.

14 thoughts on “Why Would You Even Want to Write a Book?

  1. Stephanie:

    Well put. I read something recently (oh, wait, was it fake news?) suggesting that print sales fell off with the rise of electronic readers, but that more recently print sales were beginning to come back. Perhaps some have learned the joy of a bound book in hand. Sadly, the publishing houses are not making that easy. I have books over 100 years old that are still in fine condition, but books bought in the past 20 years tend to fall apart at the seams. Very aggravating!

    But even if people read on a Kindle or such, they still are looking for something good to read. So good stories will always be needed and welcome.

    Write on!

    – Deandra

    1. It makes me happy to hear that you’ve read something (hopefully not fake ;-)) about a trend in reading real books. Like you, I love the feel, the smell, the texture and the weight of a real book–even though I read from my Kindle when on vacation. Story is here to stay and it is a brave new world as to how we will experience the telling of a great tale! Thank you for commenting.

    1. Agreed. Keep writing. As for books, I hope that you are correct and that I’ve jumped the gun. I love the look and feel of printed books as well as the content. And story . . . story will always find its way. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

    1. And while the process is absorbing as you say, I still can’t help but wonder about where “story” is headed. There are so many more avenues than just books that are now formats for storytelling. I appreciate your comment. Thank you.

  2. This post is, quite simply, beautiful. I want to write a novel for the very same reasons you outline. And you are so right, writers have to be marketers. I don’t think I will ever be a marketer, though. I will write my book and toss it out there into the abyss, to see if a kindred spirit might pick it up and resonate with what I have to say. Who knows!

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I believe that it is our duty as writers to be mindful that story telling methods change and morph. As far as the abyss goes, go ahead and toss it out there, and do it with some conscious intention. I wish you nothing but goodwill and luck in your process. Cyber hugs.

  3. I’m completing my first book, which is being released next month. I’ve envisioned readers who will be immersed in truths about self-forgiveness as I’ve poured over my manuscript late into the night for almost 5 years! Thousands of hours will all be worth it if one person gets free from the chains of self-directed shame, guilt, and condemnation. I pray God uses our words to further forgiveness, the heart of the gospel. Onward and forward, authors of all genres!

    1. Thanks for sharing you passion, Lynn. I believe that the world will always make room for story (true ones and ones that grow from imagination). And I do think that we are seeing a trend in how our stories are and can be delivered to the world. God speed. 😉

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