I write because I must

I write because I must

I recently read the most depressing article entitled, Why writing books, is not really a good idea*, by author, Ellie Griffin. Had I read this article when Down at Jika Jika Tavern was a mere mote of dust, wafting on the eddies of my mind, I likely would have abandoned the project.

Griffin reveals that during 2020, just over 2.6 million books sold online. But only 268 of these books sold more than 100 000 copies! That’s right, 2.6 million titles only sold between 0-1000 books. During lockdown, 98% of books released by publishers, sold less than 5000 copies.

Well, if that didn’t make me put down my pen and want to bawl like a baby!

So, why do it?

If you knew a product you’d created, and believed in, had such a miniscule market, would you waste your time, money, effort and imagination into writing a book that may well never sell more than 1000 copies?

Incidentally, selling 1000 copies may just recover the money you spent on every service required to get a book to published status, as well as cover a smidgen of the time you spent writing it.

Armed with this knowledge, I asked myself this question: Am I seriously going to continue writing the second book in the series?

It didn’t take me long to answer. By the time I read Griffin’s article, book 2 was already simmering merrily on the stove. The characters had taken up full residence, with 3-5 people riding shotgun in my head, on any given day. There’s a new story waiting to be told, and attention to be drawn to some very real challenges. But there are also loops to be closed, relationships to be explored, lessons to be learned, and mysteries to be solved.

Mental gymnastics.

Additionally, I am convinced that if I am in any way predisposed to a neurocognitive disorder, such as Alzheimer’s, the mental gymnastics of plotting a story, will keep it at bay. Figuring out a good plot is a mental, visual, and conversational ball of wool, just waiting to tangle, knot and frustrate you!

It’s also a wonderful way to engage a significant other. Writing can be a lonely pursuit. Often, by the end of a session, I would be exhausted. Completely unable to see through the multi-coloured birds nest I’d created. It’s amazing how quickly someone else can see straight through the mess you’ve made and guide you back onto the path of logic.

I’m a better person for it.

Every time I intentionally sit, think about, and plan for book 2, I feel doors and windows flinging wide open. It creates space for mental exploration; to venture into lands and situations with little more than a basic map. Along the way, through research and interviews, your view expands, your knowledge deepens, your beliefs and assumptions are challenged.  You come away deeply enriched, wiser, and profoundly more empathetic.

Sales: not always a good indicator

I’ve also realised that the number of books sold does not equate to the number of people who have read the book. If you belong to a book club, you’ll know this to be true. Without fail, whenever a reader tells me that they read my book, they always follow up with, “and I lent it to my my mom/sister/son …” the list goes on.

Don’t quote me, but I think you could conservatively multiply the number of times your book has been read by at least two. So, while the financial gain is lost, there is joy in knowing the story has taken on a life of its own, and is on its own journey into hands, and hearts, unknown.

*”I write because I must. It’s not a choice or pastime, it’s an unyielding calling and my passion.” Elizabeth Reyes.

**If you’re an author and are interested in the concept of the “creator economy”, be sure to read Griffin’s article.