Recently I read two articles about the dismal state of the writing business. People aren’t buying books. Self-publishing has glutted the market. The large number of freebies means readers don’t ever have to actually pay for a book. After being stung a few times by unknown authors or badly-prepared books, people turn to the work of authors they know and keep buying, even if the author has written the same book twenty times.
It’s pretty depressing.
I have, however, a single sheet of reminders that I look at from time to time. Written a long time ago, they remind me not to worry too much about the state of the business. They remind me to write, and let the rest of it go.
1. I write the kinds of books I like. There’s no sense chasing trends. I probably wouldn’t do it well, and the trend might change before I get something done anyway.
2. I’m not in this for the money. (Sorry for those of you who are; I know it’s tough.) I write because I love, love, love it, so I consider anything I make as a plus.
3. Honestly, I’m not in it for fame, either. I sometimes forget this and wish someone on the NYT would notice me, but then I remember that recognition brings a lot of things I wouldn’t like. I think I’m happier hearing from the small group of readers who like my work and encourage me to keep writing.
4. This one might sound like sour grapes, but I think it’s simply honest: The judgment of the world is often pretty bad when it comes to writing. Just think back to the bestsellers of the ’70s or ’80s if you don’t believe me. I look at many “great novels” of our time and wonder if anyone actually reads them or is it simply cool to say you did. Like the emperor’s new clothes, no one wants to be the unenlightened one who says, “This seems like gibberish to me.”
So those are the things I remind myself of from time to time. They help me remain grounded, help me recall that all that outside stuff doesn’t matter if I produce a book I’m proud to call mine.

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