I’ve been having a mini-crisis regarding my writing. And yes, this post is mostly to whine about the fact that I don’t have an audience. And I know some of that is my fault–probably most of it–I’m good at taking blame.
Sometimes I go back and look at old blog posts and flash fiction stories that seemed to get a lot of response and I wonder what appealed to the reader in this story? How can I recreate it? What do I do to get a bigger audience? Oh how wonderful it would be if the life of the writer was just to write.
When I was a kid I wrote because I loved it. Then I had a crisis of sorts, when I realized writing couldn’t pave my way to material success. I stopped writing altogether for a long time. But I knew something was missing. When I started writing again, I felt truly alive. But when I write and no one reads it’s like some sick desperation surges up inside of me. Like when you post something on Facebook hoping for 100 likes and only get 2. And it makes me wonder, do I write for attention? Is writing a form of self vindication for me? Am I really that self-absorbed that I expect people to be interested in the inner thoughts of my brain that come out in the form of stories? Or am I writing to share wisdom? Am I writing to share a story?
I’m reminded of John Kennedy Toole who killed himself when his novel A Confederacy of Dunces kept being rejected. Posthumously his book became published, and he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. How did he feel when he was constantly rejected? He knew he had a great piece of literature, but without an audience he felt worthless. Why do people only care about what authors write after they’ve died?
This industry is the suck. It’s all for the people living in New York who know someone or another or who can get in with an agent somehow. Or who hit the jackpot somehow getting pulled out of the heap. But then even when they hit the jackpot, they have to continue to write, sometimes in the same genre even if they don’t want to. But at least they had this one moment of wonder where someone saw something in their writing and made it happen for them. We can’t all be Stephen King or James Patterson.
There are so many parts of writing I find exhausting. Mostly they have nothing to do with the actual writing part. Marketing tops the list. And we all know marketing is a huge part of writing these days. Without it you’d be lucky to sell a book (if you ever finish one again). I think writers work harder than so many people for such little payout. I mean, look at the freelancing gigs available–$15 for an article? Who can make a working wage off of that? When did we decide writing was a side job and novels could be read for free or $1.99 on Kindle. You can check mine out here by the way. I get about $0.30 off each sale. And I know, I should have had it professionally edited. Sorry for the typos. If I want to get serious about this writing thing, I should probably pull that off Amazon and cut my losses. But I’m not that kind of person. Plus, there’s a lot worse crap out on Amazon that sells anyway. More effort does equal a better chance of success. I should have realized that back in 2015, but I’ve had three years and I’m still learning from my mistakes.
So here we go again. In order to be a successful writer you have to have wealth or money. The ability to have your novel professionally edited, then you have to jackpot land an agent, and hopefully that agent is with the Big Five (do 5 even actually exist anymore) and not a hybrid company that will close down and your book will disappear from existence. And then, even if you do get picked up by the Big Five you still have to market the hell out of your piece by driving your friends and family nuts on social media. Posting blog posts that you try to make look original and creative when really you’re just pulling at straws to get a few words down so you’ve met your quota for the month. And then you pray like heck your book sells so you can go through the creation and the pain all over again. This is, of course, after your book has been rejected approximately 1,753,289 times.
Or you go the self-pub route and make $0.30 off each book. There is a breakeven point. It’s somewhere close to Pluto.
Maybe it would be different if I didn’t have a day job or if I felt like people really wanted to read what I write. Or if I felt like anyone actually wanted to read at all anyway. I mean, I have a few little people in my household and they’re only enamored with technology. My kids only read for school. When did people cease to find reading fun, relaxing, entertaining?
And even fewer people are interested in literary fiction these days and then dark literary fiction to top it off. I mean, I’d rather write about vampires and step-brother lust too, but that’s just not what comes out of me when I squeeze my creative juices. For some reason I have no control over what I actually write. It’s like it travels through my brain and onto the paper, and sometimes I say, “Shit, that’s actually good,” and sometimes I say, “Crap. this is just crap.” And it’s usually the crap that people want to read–Lord knows why.
Who the hell knows? I’d like to have more readers, but I guess I’ll just keep writing for my audience of one. Because despite all the heartache involved with writing, I love it. And I wouldn’t be who I am if I wasn’t a writer.
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6 thoughts on “What is Writing Without Readers?”
Ah Lauren, SO MUCH I want to respond to in this piece but we’re on vacation now and I’ve promised to allow myself a much-needed break from all things regular life. So I’m bookmarking this and I’ll be back. I will say though, I believe you speak for tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands here.
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Thanks Amy! I need to check out your blog. I’ve been so busy lately. I hope you’re having a wonderful vacation.
I have many friends that have encouraged me to “Write a book, I’ll be the first in line to buy it.” But, the reality is, I can’t get them to visit our blog to read for free. Still, we persist in writing quality stories, each one created with care and attention to details. We get some readers and slowly gain new ones but it is unlikely we will develop a significant fan base. If I had presented myself as a young, pretty woman or a young handsome man I surely would have many more followers but, writing is my passion, not collecting admirers. Anyway, thanks for the interesting, albeit a little depressing read.
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You’re so right. I feel like pretty people are more able to get published. People with money and connections too. It’s sort of how our world works with any job. I’m glad you enjoyed the read!
Interesting post. Wanted to leave a comment because I too know how discouraging it is to think nobody is listening.
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Thanks Chuck! I appreciate the comment.