Writing a novel isn’t an especially easy task. It takes a long time before you can see any kind of tangible results. For most people, a new draft will take anywhere from multiple months to multiple years. That first draft is going to be rough, both in the sense of “difficult going” and “unpolished,” and it will probably take multiple drafts before it’s even ready for someone else to read. And even if you spend enough time learning your craft to be able to publish a novel, the chances are slim that you’ll be able to make enough money to be a full-time writer, meaning you’ll probably be doing all of this as something between a hobby and a second job.
So why do you do it? Most likely it comes down to a pretty simple answer: because you’re happier when you write. You’re more satisfied and more fulfilled when you write. It’s something that you don’t want to let go of, despite the time and effort and sacrifice.
To be clear—there’s a big difference between “writing makes you happy” and “the act of writing is always enjoyable.” Sometimes producing a few hundred words will feel like performing a self-appendectomy without anesthesia. Sometimes it’s enormously frustrating, and sometimes you’ll feel like giving up entirely. But there’s a satisfaction that comes from the discipline of writing. Almost no matter how hard it was, you’ll feel better for the rest of the day. You’ll know that you’ve moved a little further toward finishing your current project. Hopefully, even if it was difficult, you’ll feel proud of what you did that day, and you’ll look forward to the next day when you’ll write again.
When your friends and family see you struggling, they may wonder why you keep doing it. You might be able to explain it to them by comparing writing with exercise. The act of exercising itself may be anywhere from enjoyable to miserable, but you feel better overall when you do it. Both writing and exercise take discipline and commitment, and the tangible benefits for both take a long time to materialize.
Comparing writing to exercise doesn’t make it sound very appealing, does it? It’s not quite as forced as it sounds. There are lots of parts of writing that you probably really do enjoy. Maybe it’s the beauty of the language or the back-and-forth of believable dialogue. Maybe it’s the process of sculpting a story into the shape that you want. Or maybe you love it when you get to a scene where the characters and their emotions are so clear that they clamor to get out of your head and onto the page.
But there are days when none of this will happen. There are days when you’ll sit down at your desk and stare at the monitor and wish you were doing anything else but writing. There are days when you’ll struggle through just a few hundred words—or worse, when you’ll delete a few thousand words because a scene isn’t working. On those days, the only reason to keep going is because you’ve made a commitment to yourself. If you only wrote when you really felt like writing, you wouldn’t ever finish a single draft.
There’s a big reason that’s missing from this list, which is the dream of being a successful author. That’s not to say that you don’t want to be successful. But if that were your only reason, you would have given up a long time ago. If you’re going to spend countless hours writing and learning and writing again, it’s going to be because it adds something to your life that you can’t get anywhere else.
from the hidden questions dept