The International Writers Magazine: Why do writers write?
So why do writers
I suppose writers write for many reasons: to inform, to educate,
to entertain, to make money, as therapy (to get things off their
chest), to provoke and so on. However, most would agree on one
thing they write to be read. But this then raises the question,
to be read by whom?
Some write with
both eyes fixed firmly on the market and aim for the maximum readership
and income. Indeed I heard about one famous author who has a computer
package that runs through his finished text to see if he has satisfied
various preset criteria, which his readers want. He writes with these
considerations in mind and there is little deviation from the formula.
Quantity of readers is what matters.
Others may opt for quality and write for a very select audience and
may strive to be published in niche publications. Most writers however
aim to achieve optimum exposure whether they write for the mass market
or within a smaller, specific market.
I meet so many travellers in India who tell me they are writing books
based on their travels. Contrary to their belief, most will never get
published and few if any will make much money even if they do. Some
already have the publishing deal and royalties worked out in their head.
In their minds they are on the verge of being rich. They are already
legends in their minds and believe their writing is saying something
new and is brilliant. Well most who show me their stuff are merely churning
out what has been said before and in a less than gripping manner.
But should it be all about market penetration, money and publishing
deals? I know that in the past I have become pretty obsessed at times
about how many people read me when my stuff gets published. Then I began
to think whether I really care if complete strangers are reading my
stuff, particularly when it can be quite personal: complete strangers
who I will never meet, most of whom will never provide any feedback,
and half of whom arguably wouldnt give me the time of day they
Im not in it for the money so readership numbers shouldnt
really matter, should they?
Recently I met a musician who plays to his friends and community in
a bar in the US. He cut a CD for his family and friends. Somehow it
began to receive airplay on a big radio station in Seattle. This was
not really his intention. Who knows, with the right marketing it could
have gone on to bigger things. He wasnt interested in that. He
just wanted the people who matter to him to listen to his stuff. His
music was not meant as a commercial endeavour. He played for the sheer
enjoyment and wanted to pass that on to a select few: those that matter
to him. And that is how he gained his satisfaction.
He made me question my motives as a writer. I write to be read. Its
a great ego boost to know that a huge number may read some of my stuff,
but once the ego takes over then part of the enjoyment and satisfaction
goes. The publishers of Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian writer, let
the book buyer know that his books have sold 43 million copies. So therefore
hes a successful and a brilliant writer,
yes? Hes 43 times better than someone who has sold one million?
And Im also a good or bad writer based on the quantity who read
Well, unfortunately that is the kind of mindset it can be easy to get
dragged into when the ego begins to rare its ugly head. There can be
a feeling of disappointment, failure or dissatisfaction because we are
not reaching the parts that Coelho reaches, even though others may believe
in the quality of our work although its commercial potential may be
limited. My peers in the writing world read me. I value their judgement
as they are writers also. My friends read me. My mother reads me! Wow
thats some quality audience. So Im a great success arent
I and I have acquired great personal satisfaction from it havent
I? Perhaps. But I wonder how many will read this
© Colin Todhunter April 2005
is the author of Chasing Rainbows and other stories about India
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