Why are You Writing?

Here’s the question I ask my writing coaching clients: “Why are your writing this

Mural on the North wall of The Epic Cafe in Tucson.


Most often the answer is, “I want to get it published!” or “I want to see my name on the cover of a book in the bookstore.”  When I hear those words, I know there is a lot of work ahead.

Getting your book published is wonderful, exciting, terrifying and a lot of work. That’s not going to slow you down. But writing a book to get your name into print may be the worst reason of all to write a book.

Are your eyebrows crawling up into your hairline with surprise? After all, who would not want to be famous, who would not want to have excited fans gather around you at a book signing?

Small reality check: If you are among 99 percent of authors, you won’t get famous writing a book and book signings will look like the volunteer list to clean the litter box. Shared by 10 cats.

Book Facts from ParaPublishing:

  • On average it takes 475 hours to write a fiction title and 725 hours to write a nonfiction title. [My math: if your advance is $5,000, you are making about $7 per hour.]
  •  It takes an average of 531 hours to produce a book—422 hours for fiction, 550 hours for nonfiction.

Am I saying you shouldn’t write a book? Of course not. Raw Art Journaling was published in July, and I’m planning the next book. But I am saying that there is only one reason to write a book: you have something important to say. You can’t not say it. If you write a book to make money or to become famous, you will be disappointed and become cynical.

If you write a book because your idea is demanding to go out and prove its value, and you don’t care if people love it or hate it because you worked hard to get it just right, then you are on the right track. And yes, you most certainly will prefer people to love it rather than hate it. Just like your offspring–you may prefer them to be popular, but you will love them in any case.

Your idea for a book has to be so clear and alive to you that not sharing it never crossed your mind. Your idea for a book has to be so universal that when someone gives you a 1-star review on Amazon, you read the opinion carefully and then go on. You aren’t hurt or outraged. You don’t write the reviewer and argue or explain. You know you can’t please everyone and not everyone will understand you, and you are fine with that. But it won’t keep you from talking about your idea. And writing a book. Because that tiny spark of an idea has taken on the fuel you nurtured it with and is now keeping you warm and lighting up your soul. And that is the best reason to write your book.

Quinn McDonald is a writer with warm hands and a brightly-colored soul.