Saturday, June 29, 2019

What Good is #Writing?

I used to tell people writing meant nothing to me. Family, friends, writers, readers... I told everyone that writing was something I only did to make money. Writing wasn't like breathing, for me. I didn't feel like I had to do it or I'd die.

I'd heard from a lot of other authors that they'd write even if nobody paid them for it.  Even if nobody bought their books.

Not me. I was only in it for the cold hard cash.

That was then.

It took me quite a number of years before I started to realize the place of meaning and resolution writing held in my life.  When I first started writing, I was selling erotica shorts to anthologies and periodicals. I was signing contracts with niche publishers.

I think it was the market for periodicals that dried up first. Anthologies followed a few years later.  Around that time, the small publishers I was signing with started toppling like dominoes.

So I started self-publishing. Why not?  The stigma was lifting.  It was suddenly easy to publish independently. And I had quite a number of works at my disposal, including those that had come back to me from publishers that had folded.

Things went pretty okay.  I was hardly a Kindle Millionaire, but I understood the process.  Publishing seemed pretty straightforward. I uploaded my books to various retailers through various distributors and in various formats. They sold copies. Again, not a million copies, but enough that I could pay my rent and put food on the table (and in my cats' bowls).

And now?

Looking at my life holistically, I'd have to say, at the moment, it's a mess. My career is a huge part of that mess. I've experienced an enormous amount of grief and loss this year--in terms of loved ones dying and so forth--but also in terms of loss of income, dwindling sales.

The last book I wrote that was meaningful to me sold two copies.

Although my career is writing, writing is not merely a career.  Not anymore.

Writing has become much more than a career.

Much, much more.

After my cousin's death this summer, I started writing about grief.  About my grief.  Non-fiction. I started out telling myself it was publishable, that I was writing for monetary gain. But I realized very quickly that allowing anyone on the planet to read the most intimate details of my family's pain would be a betrayal to those who were hurting the most. There could be a time in the future when that changes, but that's kind of not the point.

The point is that, even after I realized I was writing stuff I couldn't possibly publish... I kept doing it.

I kept writing because the act of writing helped me. That's when I realized I was actually journaling. Didn't feel like it, because I'd never typed a journal before. I'd run out of people to talk to (or, I convinced myself I had, convinced myself nobody wanted to hear me repeat the same thoughts over and over again), but I could always write.

It helped me so much. I could never have imagined how much, honestly.  If you're going through some shit and it's never occurred to you to write it all down, I highly recommend it. Most people have probably figured this out by the age of eight.  Guess it took me a little longer than that.

There's something freeing about getting to a low point in your career.  You can stop thinking about what others want from you, because clearly they don't want anything--if they did, they'd be buying your books.  It's a time when you can turn to yourself and ask, "All things being equal, what would you really like to work on?"

And then you can write a book like this:

Or a book like this:

Or a book nobody's ever going to see, because it isn't a book at all.


  1. This is very moving, Giselle. I did it the other way around: I wrote a lot for myself in my teens and twenties before I ever thought anyone else would like to read what I wrote — especially about sex!

  2. It seems as if all writers except the 1 percent (e.g. J. k. Rowling) have suffered a loss of income in the last few years. I ran into a locally-famous mystery writer, Gail Bowen (who has written about 20 novels about an amateur sleuth. Joanne Kilbourne), who said that writers can’t earn a living anymore. If Gail can’t do it, I thiught, there’s no hope for the rest of us.