Not too long ago, my cousin walked in on me signing copies of my novel, The Sacred Scarred. She stood by the door and watched me sign each book.
“That seems like fun,” she said. “Can I just sign books without actually writing one?”
I paused and nodded slowly. “Of course you can. Your signature on the book will be meaningless, but at least you had fun.”
We laughed it off, and I carried on, signing books while musing over how writing a novel really wasn’t what I thought it would be.
The Problem with Wrong Expectations
I’ve read stuff like this so many times before I even started writing my novel, but I don’t know… We, writers (or creative people in general), have this hubris about us, blinding us from reality and convincing us that we are the exception. We have this idealism, this drive, this vision — this vision of the future that if only we’d finish and get that book out there, we would succeed.
That’s what I thought and expected. Oh, my dear darling reader, I was so very wrong.
Ever since I published my first novel, I was inundated with messages by a bunch of people telling me that they wanted to become a writer, and they wanted to write a book as well.
I encouraged each of them to go for it, because I believe that if you have that dream of becoming a writer in your heart, it may be something you need to explore and work on, but I also think that there are bad reasons for anyone to want to write a book, reasons that will only set one up for disappointment. Here they are…
1. I want to become famous!
You know what? That may just happen. You may just become the next internationally acclaimed, bestselling author. Maybe you’re just that talented and charismatic and overall amazing.
But just let me be really frank with you… The probability of that happening is minuscule. The number of books out there is insane. The amount of talent, staggering. The competition, gargantuan.
A lot of authors do the work in complete obscurity for years, even decades, before they ever experience becoming a household name – assuming they even get to the point of experiencing that.
Writing a book is not an easy way to become famous – far from it. There are quick and easy ways to get your five minutes of fame. Writing a book isn’t one of them.
2. I want to become rich!
Oh my… I wish this was true. I wish I could say that after publishing my first book, the money just kept coming in. But I won’t, because for most authors – indie authors, especially – this isn’t the reality. A lot of us even struggle to recoup our initial investment. It’s hard to earn money as a writer – especially in the beginning. But let me just be clear…
Is it possible to earn a living being a writer? Yes! Definitely.
Is writing a get-rich-quick type of living? Most likely not.
Even authors who get six-figure advances form reputable publishing companies have poured out years and years of hard work into their writing. They’ve also most likely developed expertise and a significant online platform for a considerable period of time, before they got that kind of book deal.
How then do I make a living as a writer?
Same as any regular job out there. Hard work. Persistence. Determination. Wisdom.
Which bring us to the next bad reason to want to write a book…
3. Writing a book is easy!
Anyone can do it, right? Everyone writes. You probably wrote an article or two for your high school newspaper before. You also dabble in poetry once in a while. Why not write a book and get some money out of your writing?
Well, uhm… No.
Writing a book is by no means easy. Especially if you’re someone who needs constant affirmation. To write a book, you need thick skin and a commitment to a work that could very possibly be received by readers with more criticism than praise. It’s pouring your heart and soul into a work that may never be embraced by those who read it, and you’re never really sure how readers will receive your work until you finish it and put it out there.
It’s a tough business. It’s tough writing the book. It’s tough publishing it.
Aaaaand… this is getting depressing.
What then is a good reason to write a book?
I’m by no means trying to discourage you to write a book. If you want to write one, go ahead and do it. I just want to set your expectations, and let you know that getting a book out there may not be what you expect it to be, but I can also tell you that it is a very rewarding experience IF you love writing.
I’m going to put a post next week about good reasons to write a book, but for now, would you like to share your own bad reasons for putting a book out there? Or maybe even suggest good reasons why you should?