Am I Crazy or What?

You want to be a what?? Are you crazy?? Let’s see—years of grueling hard work, rejection, frustration, terrible odds, impossible-to-reach goals. You have more hope of winning the lottery than becoming a best-selling author. You’ve heard the statistics. Each year hundreds of thousands of books are written. Literary agents get over three hundred queries a week, but they might only take on a handful of authors. Acquisitions editors receive a hundred submissions from top agents weekly, but they may pick only three of those titles to publish in a year.

Some authors have it easier. They may write to a specific genre, such as short romantic suspense, that needs formulaic novels, which allows for a proficient writer to have steady contracts writing similar books.

But for most wanna-be novelists, the prospect of getting published by a top publishing house and becoming a successful (read: making enough money to quit your day job and having people in the market recognize your name) is close to nothing.

Why the Writing Life Is So Darned Hard

Almost every other career holds open some measure of success after putting in the requisite training hours and practice in a given field. Whether aspiring to be a doctor, lawyer, nurse, teacher, or auto mechanic, you can confidently go into those professions knowing you have a good chance of getting some job in your field, making some  steady income, and getting recognition and appreciation for all your hard work.

We work toward a vocation goal for a number of reasons, but why would we want to dive headfirst into a writing life knowing there is little chance of what the world considers success?

Sure, there are those out there who delve into the arts for art’s sake. Artists often do their work—be it painting, acting, writing, or any form of artistic expression—because it fills an inner need. Perhaps an artist has the hope that they might somehow also find a way to make a living engaged in their art, and for some, if they cannot, they find they have to give  it up in order to make way for more practical concerns, such as feeding their family or paying dentist bills. Others push their art into a small space—making it a hobby they tinker with, but because this artistic drive is shelved and allowed such little room to flourish, it withers and flounders until the creative drive dwindles to nothing.

True artists may say they must pursue their art first and if the rest of their life suffers, so be it. They find that denying themselves the space and time needed to be creative is akin to a spiritual death, which they find intolerable.

Why Do You Create, Anyway?

Yet, there are a lot of factors at work propelling the artist to create, and if we take the time to honestly look at these factors, both inner and outer, we will be able to examine our own motivation and ask these questions:

  • Why do I create? What does it fulfill in me, and how great a need do I have?
  • What is my definition of success in life, and how does my creative expression fit into that?
  • How important is success as it pertains to my artistic endeavors? What to me constitutes inner success? Outer (world’s view) success?
  • How do I feel when I write? How do I look at my self, my self-worth, my significance?

I’d like to encourage you to spend some time thinking about the answers to these questions. Why? Because they speak to the heart of who we are and are tied up with our sense of identity and self-worth.

I’ll be going much more in depth about these questions and tying them in to our concept of success. I had to radically change my views during my writing journey, and I’m hoping that some of the things I’ve learned in these last twenty-five years will prove valuable to you as well. Feel free to share some thoughts on these questions!

Here’s a great video clip of Maya Angelou reciting a poem that I think will encourage you this week or anytime you feel this writing life is beating you down:

20 Responses to “Am I Crazy or What?”

  1. Michael Jennings March 19, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Why do I create? For no other reason than an inner desire to “tell” a story. When my romantic (sorry, not sleazy) novel comes out in the June/July time frame, I seriously doubt that I will even bother to market it. I’ve written an animated novel, a full length musical with lyrics, 200+ poems, etc. None of these have I sought to publish or taken them beyond just the writing stage. This novel will be my first attempt at publish; albeit, via the self-publishing route. Why? Only because my sons have threatened to have me committed if I don’t publish at least one thing in my life. Ya gotta love ’em.
    I’m fortunate enough to be in a position that I don’t need to write to put food on the table or keep a roof over my head. As I have other writings in the work, and tomorrow’s are promised to no one, I can’t (won’t) allow myself to be bogged down with the trials (and few tribulations) of the unknown marketing arena. And, in all honesty, I just don’t have the stomach or inclination for learning and applying all that is required to effectively market my writings. When I pass on, my boys can do whatever they want with my writings. Until then, I will simply live each day knowing that I am doing what I love to do — create.

  2. Patricia Woods March 19, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    Thank you for the terrific video! It made my day, which had flattened like an underdone souffle. Not to be bested by difficulty, I am the hope of my ancestors: and I rise like the sun. It is a glorious feeling.
    Blessings,
    Patricia

  3. Anne M. Beggs March 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    Of course I’m crazy: I’m a fiction writer, I hear voices. I was pondering the writer’s/artist’s paradox this wknd and comparing thoughts with my brother the musician. Why do we create, who are we creating for and what if anything do we expect.

  4. Diane Stephenson March 19, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    I create because I enjoy it and there is something inside that needs to be shared. I will never be famous, may never sell any more books than I have friends. I may never make any money from writing. Much of my writing is non-fiction and I believe it has a message that others could benefit from. I can only hope that more than my friends will read what I eventually publish and that those who do read my work will be blessed. And hopefully their lives will be changed in some way. That is my ultimate desire.

  5. LK Watts March 20, 2012 at 4:03 am #

    I think this may be a known quote but I have no idea who said it: ‘You don’t choose to write, it chooses you.’

    Writing for me is a lifestyle. No matter what else I am doing, I’ll always find the time to write.

  6. brahmananda March 20, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    Hi Author,
    The discussion you made is great but its not just about writers life. Its with every person who want something that most of the people can’t afford. Like people who want to be a film maker, they get criticised even by their family. It happens, but we need to stand up after every fall and walk again to our goal and achieve what is rightfully ours.

    I myself write sometimes and when I try to make people listen to it, I find very few listeners, who love to listen new stories. It happens but I know one day I am gonna get where I belong !!!

    Thanks for discussing this topic
    God Bless.

  7. Sara Baysinger March 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    Very moving poem by Maya Angelou. I write because it fills a deep need within me. It gives me something to look forward to every day. Creating characters and scenes makes me happy. 🙂

    • cslakin March 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

      Hi Sara! Good to see you here! she is amazing and inspiring and her story is a great one to read about.

  8. Susan H McIntyre March 20, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    I create because I must. There is a need to create that builds up pressure if I don’t. When I write, I am at peace. When I write something that adds to the lives of others, I am joyful. When I don’t write, I’m doggone cranky. 🙂

  9. Mark Allen Boone March 21, 2012 at 7:54 am #

    You’ve expressed the writer’s dilemma better than any toiler in this vineyard that I’ve chanced to encounter. Having been cursed by the obsession to write for the better part of my life, I’ve experienced all that you described and then some. While I’ve achieved some measure of success, it is nowhere commensurate with the time, sweat, and tears invested in it. Fortunately, I’ve been able to earn my bread as a editor, which was been immensely satisfying. And yes, I do, subscribe to the belief that you don’t choose to write; it chooses you. Who’d be foolish enough to do so with such odds?

  10. M. R.Tighe March 22, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    I write because I can’t NOT write! It’s just in me and has to come out, or it’ll drive me crazy. Since I learned to write, I’ve scribbled drawings and stories on every scrap of paper I could get my hands on. So, yeah, maybe writers are crazy to go through all we have to!

  11. Michelle Griep March 29, 2012 at 6:41 am #

    What?!?! You mean insanity wasn’t a prerequisite?

  12. William Singourd March 31, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    Hi. Thanks for the May Angelou. But there is no audio! (No, I’ve checked all the settings on my computer.) Would you please edit in the title of the work? Thanks!

    • cslakin March 31, 2012 at 8:44 am #

      Hi, the embedded link just takes you to YouTube so my site has nothing to do with sound. So not sure what to suggest!

  13. William Singourd March 31, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    OK. SCRATCH THIS. JUST SAW THE TITLE IN FRONT OF MY NOSE.

    Hi. Thanks for the May Angelou. But there is no audio! (No, I’ve checked all the settings on my computer.) Would you please edit in the title of the work? Thanks!

  14. Wodke Hawkinson May 20, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    Why do we write? It is kind of nutty of us, isn’t it? And we’ve barely had time to scratch the surface of our ideas. We’ll be at it a while.

  15. Sally June 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    Writers are crazy – we’re normal – it’s everyone else that’s crazy.

    • cslakin June 27, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      Huh, I thought so! just didn’t want to sound crazy to say it!

  16. Rebecca Perlow June 30, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    I was always going to be crazy whether I gave into the urge to write or not. And actually repressing the urge in favor of other more economically responsible pursuits made me even crazier.

  17. Francene Carroll July 1, 2012 at 2:46 am #

    Like everyone else here I’ve well and truly been bitten by the writing bug. Before I started writing it felt like something was missing in my life, but now that I’ve found this creative outlet the pieces have fallen into place. I thought a lot about the reasons I write and the needs it fulfills, and I have to admit the God complex comes into it for me. It makes it easier to cope with the chaos and confusion of life when you can create worlds where you are the creator and master.

    I love the feeling of creating new worlds out of nothing, and paradoxically I also love it when my stories and characters take on their own momentum and it feels like the story is writing itself. I also think it’s very therapeutic to tap into the deep recesses of your subconscious and I believe this is one reason so many people find it highly addictive. Stories help us to work through our issues and confront our demons, in the same way dreams do. On top of all these reasons it’s just great fun!

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