On being a writer
People always tell me they want to write a book. They ask me how to do it, how I did it. I give them the answer and most people lose interest when they hear how much work it is. I tell them about book proposals, and research, and agents, and editors, and publishers, and marketing. I tell them that they will not be the next J.K. Rowling. They probably won’t even be the next Dawn Dais.
Recently someone wrote to me asking about the financial aspects of writing books. They wanted to know how much money they can make writing books. I told them about the tiny advance I received for my first book and the very large amount I spent promoting that book. I told them that my investment paid off, but it doesn’t for everyone. I gave them my standard breakdown of all the reasons they shouldn’t bother to write the book they were thinking about writing.
But then I told them that I’ve wanted to be a writer since I’ve known how to write. I remember distinctly the pride I felt when my fifth grade teacher read one of my stories in front of the class. It has always been more than just a dream of mine, writing is part of who I am, whether or not anyone ever read a single thing I scribbled down.
I told this person about how it feels to walk into a huge bookstore (or a tiny bookstore) and see my books on the shelves. I told her that it’s never been about making money (which is a good thing, because writers don’t make much money). I scribble stuff down on paper and a few months later I get to walk into a bookstore and see it on the shelves (in a font that is considerably more legible than my scribbles). And from there it goes on the shelves of people who are actually reading what I scribbled down one rainy day at a tiny Thai restaurant in West Roseville.
I told her that being on those shelves, in bookstores and in people’s homes, was a dream come true. I told her I would do it all for free.
So when she asked me about writing her book I told her to write something that she was proud of first and foremost. Write the story she wants to tell, and write it honestly. Write it as if no one is ever going to read it, because they may not. Write because it’s part of who you are, whether or not anyone ever reads a thing you scribble down.
I got to walk into a large bookstore today and see my new book on a table and on shelves. I got to visit my other books too. It never gets old, and always feels special, because it is.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me get on those shelves over the years, and especially to the ones who have picked the books off of the shelves and taken the time to read my scribbles.
You’ve all made my little 5th grade dreams come true, over and over again.