In a recent interview with Amanda Turner, host and producer of The Writers’ Block on Boise Community Public Radio based in Boise, Idaho, I was asked what advice I would give aspiring writers. “Know why you want to write,” I said. Running out of time, I added a few words about best-selling suspense writer Ridley Pearson, and the interview was over.
If I had had more time, I would have elaborated on that answer. I believe every writer should know why he or she wants to write, and here’s why. There are many reasons to be a writer. Not all of them have to do with becoming a published bestselling author. The way you measure success has a lot to do with your goals. For instance, maybe you write because:
- you are a wordsmith, and like to play with words
- you like to express yourself in writing
- you like to tell stories
- you have something to say
- you want to make money
- you want to see your name in print
- you want to be famous
- you want to be published
At base level, writing is writing. You sit down and put your thoughts on paper. You rearrange the nouns and verbs until the sentences make sense. For some writers this is enough; their success is seeing their words in written form. For others, success might be writing a story that has been passed down through generations. Others may not consider themselves successful unless they have published one book, two books, or earned a hefty advance.
I use Ridley Pearson to demonstrate what a successful writer looks like not because he’s a bestselling author, but because he knew what he wanted to accomplish as a writer, and did it. Some years ago, I attended one of his workshops at a writer’s conference before he was multipublished, and this is what he told us. He wanted to be a bestselling author before he turned forty. So he studied the industry and took steps to make that happen. He learned the craft of writing, did extensive crime research, targeted a specific market, networked, and queried. If you ask him, he will tell you he didn’t become famous over night. But he had a goal, and took the needed steps to make it happen.
Which leads me back to my advice for writers. Know why you want to write. It could be as simple as writing in your journal every day. It could be as complicated as writing a thousand page epic and getting it published. It could be to simply play with words. We all write for different reasons. Knowing why will help you get to where you are going.