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Why Do I Write?

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Why Do I Write?

Sara General

I’ve never really thought about this question the way I’ve been thinking about it for the last few days.  Writing was just something I always did, from being five and trying to piece together words and pictures, to high school where I wrote what can only be called Sandman fan fiction, to university where I toiled away and produced two novels that were definitely among my more inexperienced attempts at storytelling.  I've come a long way from my first attempts like the picture I shared above and I've deeply enjoyed every second of the journey.

This said, the last few years have been definitely been my favourite times for writing.  I feel like I’ve learned and grown so much even in the past year by just writing a lot and reading a lot.  I’ve also moved away from the kind of career that consumes every last ounce of your soul and trounces creativity, in favour of work that is still really meaningful and important but allows a lot of time for creative writing in my personal time.  It’s a balance I’m grateful for because I want to help Indigenous Peoples and my community in whatever way I can.  And I also want to indulge my creativity and my writer self, because so much of my energy and passion comes from the fun I find in imagining things and writing them down.

As I’ve worked to decolonize my life and restore my relationship to the land and language, it occurred to me this week that I hadn’t done the same kind of transformative work in my relationship to writing and publishing.  I hadn’t really thought about the publishing side of it, but now that I’ve started to look into it more, I realized my knowledge of publishing is pretty old school.  I knew what most writers know – that there’s a traditional publishing industry, that you can try to break into it through the traditional avenues and that it’s very likely your story might end up in the slush piles where the only journey your manuscript ever takes is the return trip back to you inside a self addressed, stamped envelope.

This last week, there were a number of articles about traditional vs. self-publishing in the news, in part because of the AuthorEarnings report that Hugh Howey and his partner recently released.  A lot of discussion was generated and I’ve been gobbling up articles on the subject because I’m looking more closely at how to share my stories effectively.  I have to say, the self-publishing option is winning me over – but not because of money or earnings or royalties.  Not even because I’m anti-establishment or against traditional publishing houses.

I like it for all of the creative reasons I’ve read about – you can keep writing at the same time that you’re sharing and connecting with readers and you can work with talented local artists and editors.  I’ve yet to experience this personally, the sharing and connecting.  It sounds wonderful and it’s great that it's possible now through self-publishing.    I’m not sure why anyone would hesitate – I like how Hugh Howey puts it in this article called Why You Should Self Publish?  After reading this, I felt really excited to try – with no expectations of anything except sharing and trying to create the best book that I can.  But I also really like how Mark Coker puts it in this Publisher’s Weekly article about the furor that was caused by the AuthorEarnings report: “I think the world is better served with more publishing options. I want to see more publishers, more self-published authors, more books, more retailers, and more book-loving people earning a living contributing their talent to books and book culture”.

I agree with this on many levels.  I love books so much and I realize there are tons of talented, passionate people who help books and book culture thrive on both sides of this debate, and I’m thrilled that other options exist.  I’ve always known I wrote because I loved stories – loved reading them, writing them, editing them and drawing them.  It will be awesome to take the plunge and start sharing them.  In the traditions of my people this is exactly what happens - stories are shared, passed on and made richer through the experience.  I want to be apart of that and I’m fortunate to live in an era where doing so is easier than ever.

My story is now in the hands of my Ideal Reader and I’m focusing on other important elements of getting a book into shape, areas it sounds like a publisher might typically help with.   But I’m happy to take on these tasks.  It’s exciting and I’m learning so much as I go from the community of authors online who are both courageous and willing to share their stories to help new authors like me take these steps.

Happy writing everyone! #Makegoodart and make the choices that work for you and your art! S