Know WHY You Write


why do you want to writeI had a video comment this past week from a viewer that said, “If you know how to write fiction to make millions, why are you spending your time making how-to videos?”

Let me give a shout-out to Oz who asked the question. I gave him a short answer, but I want to give a longer answer in this video.

Why a longer answer? Because it’s an extremely important question. It goes to the very heart of the craft of writing, and my answer may change the way you view why and how you write.

How to Get Rich Writing Without Making a Dollar

I’m going to give you the short answer now, but please keep watching for the longer answer. It’s better.

My short answer was, as Ernest Hemingway said about writing— “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

So, knowing how to write fiction is not the secret sauce to make a million dollars as a writer.

  • You have to become an expert at your craft.
  • You must build your audience.
  • You must be able to write on themes that capture the public imagination at a particular point in time.

And make a million dollars? Few authors earn that. But most would be happy if their writing skills brought them a steady $100,000-$150,000 per year. I know I’m a happy guy.

So, Oz asked, if you can make money writing, why spend time making how-to writing videos? Ah ha!

I told him that my channel, which is tiny at this point, is attracting about 200 viewing hours every 24 hours. People are interested in the information I offer and many say it is helpful.

And you know, that gives me joy and satisfaction. I look forward to getting thousands of viewing hours each day in the future. That’s why I create YouTube videos. To share my knowledge with others. I want to encourage writers. That’s my intention.

Yes, I’m still writing and selling books, blog posts, and creating online courses. I continue to edit books for clients.

I love that quote by author, actor, and comedian Steve Martin. He said, “I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.”

Think about it. IMG Maybe it’s okay to reach out and help others on their journey in life, including their writing journey.  In fact, your writing skill, and the way you use it to help others, may define the best part of your life.

Writing Isn’t About Money Alone

Writing is not about money alone. Notice I said, “alone.” Money is important.

I think people who write solely for altruistic reasons are fooling themselves. It doesn’t matter how many books a writer gives away—even for marketing purposes. What matters is how many a writer sells.

  • When people buy your book, it confirms that it has perceived value.
  • They are more likely to read something they paid for.
  • If they read it, and like it, they will probably tell their friends about it.

That’s how writing careers grow.

Literary hoarders want free ebooks especially. They hide them away by the hundreds on their devices but seldom read them. Free giveaway ebooks are largely stillborn books.

Money counts. It is the perfect way to keep score. I view my Amazon KDP Dashboard as my scoreboard in the writing game. Purchases prove to me in a tangible way that I made it across the goal line.

But let’s stop there. Our writing can and should be more than the income we receive from it.

Writers Change Lives

The reason I write is because a book changed my life. Don’t you laugh at me. It was a child’s picture book with a fair amount of text called Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling. The artwork was beautiful—Holling was a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago.

On the surface it is about a native Canadian boy who, with his father, carves a footlong canoe with a brave sitting in it, courageously facing the future.

The boy places his canoe carving at the top of a hill in winter, and with the thaw, it is carried on a colorful odyssey through all the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.  Later, after the boy has become a man, he rediscovers his old carved friend.

Why did that story affect me as a child? I can tell you, but the point is, it did affect me on many levels.

There was the boy who could carve, there were the adversities and adventures of the wooden Indian in the canoe as he worked his way through the treacherous Great Lakes, and there was the reunion at the end.

That book made me feel something. And from that day to this, I want people to feel something when I write. I want to broaden their horizons. I want to inspire them. I want to help people face the challenges of this life and overcome them.

Is that wrong?

No, that’s very right.

Both fiction and nonfiction have the power to alter the thought processes of readers or viewers. As writers, we have the power to change their intellectual or emotional state of mind.

  • People want and need to learn new things.
  • They want and need to understand their world.
  • They want and need to understands their own lives.
  • They want and need to understand how to do things.
  • They want and need to feel emotions they have not felt in a long time.

Some kids wanted to capture wild animals I suppose, I’ve always wanted to capture imaginations. And I still do.

What Are Your Intentions?

What are your writing intentions?

  • Looking to make a buck?
  •  Want fame?
  • Want to share your misery with the world?
  • Emotional release?
  • Trying to get revenge on someone?

My suggestion is that you think about your intentions. It doesn’t matter what you write about, your intentions are important.

These days, many writers say, “I’ll write what I want. Readers don’t matter. If they like it, good. If they don’t like it, tough cookies.”

Not good. Money is not the only riches available to writers. There are other ways, and you may get money as a bonus. There are riches when you intend to help others on their journey in life.

The best writing starts by asking the question, “How can I transport readers from where they are in their heads to a better place?”

How you answer that question dictates your writing success.

It’s a crossroads question. In asking it, you choose between the path of self-preoccupation and the path that opens you up to changing lives through the information or entertainment you provide.