What I Know Is…: Reflections on Being a Writer

April 2014 will mark my second year as a published independent author. A huge milestone, really, especially when I didn’t celebrate my first year because I was frantically prepping my third novel for release at the time and barely noticed the anniversary. And a doubly-huge milestone when one considers that I wrote my first several-thousand word story when I was in fifth grade. (It was a horror story about the babysitter getting slashed to ribbons and the children being abducted. Fortunately, my parents and my babysitter never read it). All that to say, this month marks my 1.5 year publication anniversary, and the first time since it all began that I have a moment to give this adventure some (over?)due reflection.

The thing about being a writer, as I was discussing with a brilliant writer friend of mine yesterday, Sezin Koehler, is that you never feel quite right unless you’re writing. If a day goes by that words have not spilled from your brainmeats onto a page, you begin to harbor insidious thoughts about the possibility that you’re a failure, that you don’t have what it takes to cut it as an author, that you are just faking it. It may be a scientific fact that the only time writers feels that we qualify as full members of the human race is when we are actually writing. Not when we “have written” or “are planning the next book,” but when our fingers are actually tapping on the keyboard or moving a pen over a page.

(Which, incidentally, may also be why so many of us also blog when we’re not working on a creative piece. It’s validation, even if the results are little more than instances of embarrassing oversharing.)

Given this subjective fact (get it? subjective fact? haha, um…), I can state with zen-soaked certainty that my experiences in the writing world have proved beyond a doubt that I am a writer. Okay, let me back up and explain that somewhat circular statement.

The reasons people write are legion. But for those who write and publish, whether traditionally or nontraditionally (though these definitions will become somewhat more fluid over the next few years, I predict), the reasons may be more limited. There’s the obvious “I want to make tons of dough” and “I feel like this story needs to be heard,” or even more simply “My parents ignored me as a child so now I want ALL the attention.” Then there’s the more subtle “I think this concept can be commercially successful, so I want to give it a go” and “It doesn’t matter if not a lot of people buy it, I’m just having fun.” Yea verily, the common denominator for those who publish is the hope for an audience.

And so, as happens to many authors who publish (and more who self-publish), where does that leave us when the audience is either absent or very small, quiet, and/or invisible? I will tell you where that leaves us—at the reflecting pool. You know, the one bubbling with starving piranhas.

My reason for publishing my books was somewhere within the “I think this concept can be commercially successful, so I want to give it a go” and “It doesn’t matter if not a lot of people buy it, I’m just having fun” range. And while I have had limited commercial or financial success with my books, I can say without a nanosecond of hesitation that choosing to make my writing public has heaped on me some of the greatest rewards a person like me could experience. The sense of satisfaction one receives from the sincerely meant praise of complete strangers about one’s words is nearly equivalent to being handed the keys to paradise. Really. What more could a writer hope for?

So, upon reflecting on the last eighteen months of being published and the few hundred dollars I’ve earned, the thing that brings my arse back to my seat and positions my fingers over the keyboard every morning is not an expectation that I must create the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings novels, but, simply, because I love to write. I am a writer.

How about you, dear writers, why do you write?

PS: You’re welcome to read my review of Sezin’s first novel, American Monstershere.

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All content copyright unless otherwise specified © 2013 by Tammy Salyer, writer. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided proper attribution is given.

13 comments

  1. You are brilliant, Sablefoot! Congratulations! I’ll comment publicly, but just wanted to send you a big WOOOOOO-FUCKING-HOOOOOOOO! You rock, badass feminist sister. xoxo

    On Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 4:57 PM, Tammy Salyer

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    1. Sezin, love, this is pretty public :-) And thank you!!!! XXOO

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      1. Holy smokes! How did that happen?! I thought I was emailing you and somehow it ended up here! Regardless, the sentiment would be same, although a tad more measured on my part. ;-) And thank you for the shout-out. Only we writers can sympathize with the pain of a creation or writing-free day. A singular kind of suffering. Here’s to your Book III and my Book II, strength to our pens and creative brains! xoxoxo

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  2. Great post, thank you
    Arran xxx

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    1. Thank you, Arran!

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  3. Thank you so much for posting this. As I am reading this, it has been a few days since I last wrote something (a blog or an essay or a share of thought that is) & honestly I feel left out & I feel like I am doing nothing with my life. I want to write something, but I just can’t. My brain just won’t pump out its excrement of thoughts & ideas, it is constipated. I really enjoyed reading this & I thank you so much. Now, I truly know I am a writer, simply because I love writing. Keep safe & stay awesome! :)

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    1. Hey Kregianmiral, Don’t look now, but you just wrote something. Yay you!!! Keep it up and thank you for such kind words :D

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  4. You’re so right about only feeling like we are full members of the human race when we are actually, physically writing. It’s sad sometimes. This afternoon, I had this beautiful moment between the rush of afternoon chores and the beginning of cooking dinner when I just got to sit quietly on the couch and savor the twilight. It was a great moment. And it inspired me to write a few sentences, which may eventually become a piece of flash nonfiction. The sad part is that it was only once I was *writing* about the experience that I felt like it was truly worthwhile. Maybe it’s not as sad as all that, but somewhere in me is the feeling that non-writers can just enjoy such experiences without feeling like they have to write them down to deserve them.

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    1. Hi Sharon, Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Writing is most certainly a habit, and it can become all-consuming if we don’t watch out. Like in everything, we have to strive to find our balance. But if it feels good, do it!

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  5. You write well, great

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    1. Thank you, Jeff!

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  6. Wonderful post. Sometimes writers talk about why they write, and I don’t see myself in their words at all. I feel like I could have written this. Nice to discover a kindred sister. (Also, March marks my 1.5 year mark.) :)

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    1. Congrats to you too, Donna! So glad this post resonated with you :) We writers are indeed a mixed and wild family!

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