Fact #4: Writing a book isn’t fun.
If it doesn’t make a lot of sense to write a book for money, how about doing it for satisfaction? Many people imagine that they’d “fulfill themselves” (whatever that means) if they wrote a book; or that they’d get a deep pleasure out of the craft elements of the job. In fact, writing a book is a lot of work, and often work of a very tedious kind. It’s heavy labor, more akin to building a house than puttering in your basement. (And no one builds a house purely for the pleasure of it.) It’s certainly possible to write for pleasure and satisfaction, but seldom at that scale. Poetry, short stories, blogging — all of these can deliver fun, satisfaction, and the pleasures of craft. But writing a book isn’t something that can be done in a week or a month. It weighs on you; it’s a bear to wrestle into submission, and it’s followed by the (generally) no-fun publishing process. And then you’ve got to endure the almost inevitable commercial disappointment. Imagine going to all the trouble of building your dream house (by hand, naturally) — and then people ignore it.
So why do people do write books? I come up with these possible explanations:
- Some hope to hit the jackpot despite the odds.
- Some have a dream about being an author, or taking part in “literature.”
- Some are obsessed lunatics — ie., they feel they just gotta. < -- that's me
- Some don’t know better (these usually never write a second book)
- Some have other ambitions, and writing a book is a step along the way.
- A handful are determined to be trade-book authors as a career, and know what the game consists of, and have (or think they have) the tenacity, toughness, talent, luck and energy to succeed.
The book is chugging along nicely. It should be done Q1 2009. And it’s true, I get zero satisfaction from working on it. But I gotta finish.