I went to the Hoover Library Southern Voices festival a couple weekends ago and heard a bunch of authors talk about their books, their writing processes, and their paths to publication. It’s always such a boost to be in a room full of other people who understand how hard it is to write–to say what you want to say in the way you want to say it–and how hard the road is to getting those words out to people other than your family and critique readers.
Thinking of how hard that road is and how long it takes (or at least, how long it took me), I started wondering–why do I want it? Why do I write in the first place, why did/do I care about getting my stories out into the public? Why not just write for myself? Plenty of people do that–work for years or their whole lives on stories that no one will read but them and they are satisfied with that. Why did I feel the need and desire to push my stories out into the wider world?
It’s not vanity–trust me on that. The fact that my stories going out into the world will require me to actually go to places and talk about them–in front of other people…well, let’s just say I’m forcibly pushing those thoughts out of my head until it actually happens. I’m thrilled at the prospect of people maybe actually liking my book when it comes out and wanting to talk to me about it, or hear me talk about it, but at the same time, it kind of makes me want to throw up. I’m not super comfortable talking in front of a small group of people, much less a roomful of book clubbers I don’t know!
Suffice it to say, I’m not in this for vanity or glory. The only way I can explain it is connection. I want to write stories that make people say, “Me too! I feel that too!” and maybe even “I’m not alone in this.” That’s what I love most about reading. That moment when I’m reading a book and the character’s words echo something deep inside me–maybe even a feeling I have but haven’t figured out a way to put it into words. It makes me say, “Yes! That’s it!” It’s that moment of connection, that thought that I’m not alone in feeling whatever it is–that someone else feels it or notices it or has experienced it too. THAT is what I want for readers of my books. I want my stories to translate to people who haven’t necessarily gone through the same experiences in my books, but who’ve had the feelings that go along with the experiences.
So that’s why I write. On hard writing days, or days when I get difficult feedback, or when I realize I’m going to need an extensive revision, or when I want to shut my computer and walk away–on days like those, it’s helpful to remember why I’m doing it. No woman is an island, so these experiences and emotions I pour into my stories aren’t just for me. Yes, there are 33 million books available on Amazon (a staggering number I just heard recently), but there is a place for mine, and hopefully readers for them.