The Deliberate Author

Image of notebook and penReading the author interviews at Goodreads is something I enjoy. Quite often in interviews of famous book authors you find examples of “the unintentional author,” someone who never had a plan or sometimes even any inkling that he or she would write a book. Then some catalyst came along that motivated them to write one or write several.

It didn’t happen that way for me. I purposefully chose to write. I even intentionally chose a profession quite early in life on the basis that it would allow me to retire early so that I would have the time to write.

I’d wanted to write a book since my childhood, mostly I think because my love for books instilled within me a deep admiration for authors. When you admire someone it is quite natural I think to desire to emulate them, to be like them, to in a sense be one of them. To this day, a good many of the people I truly admire are book authors. A few of them I even think of as friends even though I’ve never met them or even corresponded with them and perhaps never will.

Curiously it is far easier to identify the things that didn’t trigger within me the desire to write than the things that did. As an example, I’ve never had any intention to earn a substantial income from writing books. I’ve never had the ambition to become a famous author. Perhaps that is because I’ve always been more of a pragmatist than an idealist. While I like to think I can tell a reasonably good story, I’ve never had any illusion that I possess the talent and skill of a Steinbeck, a Faulkner, or a Hemingway. Not at all.

When I published my first book I had an ambition to sell a few hundred copies when I started, and then – when I sold the first thousand copies I was beyond thrilled. I never really expected to make any real money from it. But that part of it was just a bonus. What I found most meaningful was discovering that a good number of people were interested in reading something I’d written. That is what really motivated me to want to keep writing.

Perhaps I write for the same reasons that people like to read books. Recently I saw a poll that asked the question, “Why do you read books?” The top three reasons given were:

  • to learn something new,
  • to be entertained, delighted, and enchanted, and
  • to momentarily escape from reality.

American journalist, critic, and essayist Joe Queenan has written, “If you have read 6,000 books in your lifetime, or even 600, it’s probably because at some level you find ‘reality’ a bit of a disappointment.” That sentiment seems to square with the results from the poll I mentioned. It seems likely then that one reason I write books is because within the pages of a fictional story I too find temporary escape from a “reality” I find a bit of a disappointment.

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