When I write, I write for me. I write for fun. I write for entertainment and peace of mind. It’s satisfying, and the act of writing helps keep me sane.
But writing for an audience of one isn’t good enough. It’s selfish, and it isn’t the motivator I need to keep at it consistently, instead of writing when I “have the time” or “just for fun.” Simply put, if I stay the course, I’ll never go anywhere with it.
This hit me today while driving to work. The theme song to that movie Ben shuffled onto my iPod—a very young Michael Jackson’s voice stirring something deep within my soul. I watched that movie only once, in fifth grade, because our teacher put it on. I don’t remember why. I just remember it was about some lonely child befriending Ben, the leader of an army of rats on the advance into town. Their friendship was one of those relationships doomed from the start, as they came from two worlds at odds with each other. Ben’s rats killed humans. Humans killed Ben’s rats. Even though forces were at work to tear them apart, Ben and the boy’s friendship endured.
The movie is probably terrible now that I’m older, but it’s the sentiment that counts. The memory. I’m reminded of it whenever that song shuffles on. And every time, I think of my loved ones.
I’ll be married in two months to an amazing woman. Eventually, the two of us will have a family of our own. So who am I writing for?
I can’t keep writing for me.
The ability to write is a gift. It’s a craft we, as “writers,” chip away at. Some of us are more obsessive about it than others, and the more we hone the skill, the better we become. It’s our special tool, and it’s completely wasted when exclusively used for the self. The one. The individual.
I want to use it to better my family.
I want to write, so I can use my tool, my gift, to put food on the table. I want to take this gift and give my family the best possible future. The idea that this is greater than myself makes it harder for pen to leave paper. The thought of providing, of using this talent for the benefit of my loved ones, inspires something more important than leisure. It inspires duty. Necessity. Devotion.
Writers often say one can’t go into writing for the money. I agree. It’s a very risky business. The odds of profitability are stacked against the individual, and more often than not, we may be left writing things that don’t interest us even when we succeed.
But very few enjoy the tedious monotony of work, so why not spin the barrel of the gun and play Russian roulette with our gifts anyway? We can take the chance. The more devoted we are, the better our odds will be. With devotion, dedication and drive, we’re betting on the house, our house, to win.