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Why We Write

Getting the Should Out

Aspiring writers are often told they should write for the sheer joy of it. I suppose the well-meaning person saying such a thing might do so because publishing is a hard business and not everyone is going to make it big. Perhaps this person is trying to spare the feelings of someone recently rejected. I don’t know for sure, but any time the word “should” prefaces a suggestion I question it. I’ve tried to eliminate as many shoulds from my life as possible. I “should” exercise three times a week—but what if my body needs five times, or does better with once? I “should” eat fewer carbs—perhaps, but what if an ultra-low-carb diet brings on depression or exhaustion? I “should” write every day—but what if my brain produces large chunks of words that get dumped out onto the page all at once and then requires days to recuperate? I “should” … well you get the idea.

All of this “shoulding” on ourselves can be exhausting if not frustrating. What one should do instead—oops, I just did it myself. Find what works for you. And do that. It may take multiple attempts to figure it out.

So, why do we write? I can only answer that question for myself. There’s something about creating story that brings aliveness to my being. But while I would probably still write just for the joy of it, even if there was no hope of ever selling anything, for me writing is a business and I approach it as such. I have an LLC for my publishing business. I take it seriously. But I don’t write every day. Since I have now published one novel and one multi-author anthology, I also spend time marketing. I’m trying to learn to enjoy this aspect of the business because as any published author—traditionally or Indie—will tell you, marketing is a necessary activity if you want to sell what you’ve written.

However, the business path is not the only one available to writers. There are as many paths as there are people who pick up a pen. Many write because the hobby brings them pleasure. They have no other goal in mind and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Perhaps your path is to capture the stories of your life to share with your family so they understand where they came from. Maybe it’s more important to have the stories than it is to have fame and fortune. Or perhaps that’s where you began and now realize you want to take it further and create a book of these stories, or a book-length memoir. What way is yours, go for it.

The bottom line is that there are no “shoulds” you must apply to whatever writing path you choose. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you write in the hopes of someday selling your work. I write commercial fiction and am proud of that fact. And just because you start down one path doesn’t mean you can’t hit the clutch and reverse course in another direction. Find your own WHY and write.

22 Comments

  1. Renee Mirsky says:

    I fully agree. I have been hacking away at a memoir of my concert going and artist meet/greet experiences and some days I write a ton and have a real creative streak going. Other times I put it aside and focus on something else so hacking away at it though draft is nearly done!

    1. Jeanne Felfe says:

      That sounds like a fascinating life experience.

  2. Joy Hack says:

    What’s wrong with writing for profit? Absolutely nothing. If writers didn’t write for profit we would have very little to read and enjoy. So go for it, I love to read it.

    1. Jeanne Felfe says:

      Exactly. What do you like to read?

  3. Shanna Johnson says:

    I really like that of the no “shoulds”. So often I am like that and think “oh I should go and do this” instead it would be more helpful to think of why I would WANT to do those things that make me happy.

    1. Jeanne Felfe says:

      Yes! The act of asking why can be an amazing exercise. Thank you for that thought.

  4. Lisa Nordmann says:

    Jeanne, your blog is wonderful!!!! Great advice to aspiring writers.

    1. Jeanne Felfe says:

      Thank you.

  5. Margo Dill says:

    Hi Jeanne: Nice Not-a-blog post. 🙂 I love that name, and your new site looks great. 🙂 This is a good post. I write because on the days when I do, I always feel better. It feels like something bigger than myself. But I do like the business side of it too–obviously. Anyway, congrats!

    1. Jeanne Felfe says:

      Thank you. That means a lot coming from one of my mentors.

  6. MsRedK says:

    The shoulds in my life trip me up all of the time. Since my mother passed away in late March from covid I have been slowly trying to rewire my brain to not think of what I should or should not be doing but just trying to ‘be’ and take it day by day and whatever comes of that day is what I am for that day. No more apologizing for what I didn’t ‘should’ for that day.

    Your article just so touched on all of that, I really enjoyed reading it and shared it on twitter.

    msredk at aol dot com

    1. Jeanne Felfe says:

      Thank you so much for your insight. And I am so sorry for the loss of your mother.

      This article came to me in a flood of “shoulds” and I had to write it.

  7. I should, I shouldn’t! As a 77 year old avid reader, I now do what interests me that day, I just enjoy each day!

    1. Jeanne Felfe says:

      Awesome. My 65th is rapidly approaching and I also do what interests me.

      1. We sure have earned our enjoyment of each day! I’m sure what you know now could fill a book!

        1. Jeanne Felfe says:

          It probably could, but I think I’ll stick to fiction. hahaha

  8. Cindy Kindall says:

    I have some of the last notes and thoughts of my Mom that she put to pen. Her handwriting was always horrible and so when the day comes that I can sit down at my laptop and write without crying it will be forever saved.

    1. Jeanne Felfe says:

      I’m sure it will be a beautiful tribute when you can.

      I have hand-written notes from my dad that he wrote during high CO2-indused delusions shortly before he passed in June 2015. I have no idea what I’ll do with them, but they were his last written words, so I keep them.

      I also have my mother’s memoir which she could never get published. I’ve begun re-editing it and plan to publish it now that all her brothers and sisters are also deceased. I hesitated doing it until the last of 14 was also gone because it deals with their father’s abuse.

  9. StuffSmart says:

    The no shoulds concept is great to apply to any life!

    1. Jeanne Felfe says:

      That’s got my vote. Well, other than I should go put fresh sheets on my bed since if I don’t, I’ll go up there are bedtime and scream at myself. Hmmm…maybe I “should” go do that now while I’m thinking about it. Be right back.

  10. Mary Preston says:

    Should kind of binds us.

    1. Jeanne Felfe says:

      Thank you, Mary. Could you elaborate? Binds us to something, or binds us and prevents us from doing something?

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