Friday, May 3

Finding My Why by @JanaRichards_

I sometimes feel like this when I see my royalty statements.
Publishing is a tough business. Nan talked about this in a recent Word Wranglers post. She cited the 2018 Author’s Guild Income Survey that shows a 42% decline in writers’ incomes in the last decade. Except for a select few, most writers don’t earn enough from their writing to live on. I know I don’t.

Aside from making very little money, writers face rejection, bad reviews and pressure to produce  marketable work as quickly as possible – all this while labouring at another job and trying to drum up interest for other existing novels.

If it sounds like a lot of work and pain for not much reward, it is. So, why do I and so many other writers continue to write?

Good question. It's enough to discourage even a determined writer. I'd be lying if I said I haven't thought about doing something else once in a while.

I usually say I write because I can’t not write. I want/need to tell stories. While it's true, I think I need to go deeper. I need to find my why. What compels me to write, even when a monetary reward may not be part of the deal? Why bother?

So, I did what always do when I need to answer a question. I turned to the Internet.

I found some posts on “Finding Your Why”. They’re more geared to entrepreneurs and but the questions asked are valid in finding my passions.

In a piece at, Margie Warrell asks four questions about finding purpose:

1. What makes you come alive? Ms. Warrell says this is about connecting with something you’re passionate about. It could be a cause that’s bigger than you and speaks to who you are and what you care about.

I think writing is my passion. It’s not a ‘cause’ but it does make me come alive and inspire me like no other job I’ve ever had (I really can’t get that excited about accounts payable). Mark Mason says that everything comes with a cost. Even a dream job will have aspects of it you may hate (for example, marketing my books). He asks us to consider a job/task/cause that we’re so passionate about that we’re willing to take the bad with the good. I must be willing to take the good with the bad because I work hard at marketing, even though it’s definitely not my favorite thing.

2. What are your innate strengths? What are the things you’re good at? When passion meets talent and skill a person is more productive and derives enjoyment from what they do.

I think I’m a good writer. Hey, I’m no Nora Roberts but I can hold my own. I derive enjoyment from creating worlds and characters and I think I can create interesting ones. And I’m persistent to the point of stubbornness.

In his piece Mark Mason says: “It’s not about some great achievement, but merely finding a way to spend your limited amount of time well.”

3. Where do you add the greatest value? Ms. Warrell says: “Too often we undervalue our strengths, skills and the expertise we naturally acquire over time. If you reframe the concept of adding value through the lens of solving problems, you can ask yourself what you’re well placed and equipped to help solve in your workplace, career, organisation or industry. You can also ask yourself what problems you really enjoy solving, and what problems you feel passionate about trying to solve.  You’ll then be more successful at focusing on your natural strengths and those things you’re innately good at than trying to bolster or eliminate your weaknesses.”

To me writing a book is like putting a puzzle together, only I get to decide the size and shape of the pieces. It’s like a problem to be solved. I feel passionate about crafting a story with twists and turns and plenty of conflict; perhaps that could be considered a strength. I want to throw my characters into hot water and then try to figure out a way to get them out. I try with each book to give my characters a unique problem, but one that I hope resonates with readers. I not sure this what Ms. Warrell is talking about, but it’s what I’m hearing.

Mark Mason asks what we feel so passionate about that we’re willing to embarrass ourselves to get better at. Writing is one of those things that we get better at the more we do. I’m proud of my early writing efforts, but I cringe a little at some of the mistakes I made. But I threw them out into the public and subjected myself to critique and review. I guess that means I’m willing to embarrass myself.

4. How will you measure your life? One line here really spoke to me: “No matter what your job, you can draw meaning from it and find greater purpose through how you do what you do.”

Mark Mason asks us this question: If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how do you want to be remembered.

Okay, I know I’m not writing War and Peace. My writing isn’t likely to change the world. But if I can do a good job entertaining one reader, and perhaps give her something to connect with or bring her hope, I can feel good. If I can enjoy the process of writing a book so much that I’m willing to take the good with the bad, then perhaps writing is meant to be for me.

And if I’m honest with myself, in my heart of hearts, I hope that something I write will outlive me. Maybe that’s why I write.

So, fellow Word Wranglers and readers, what’s your why? Writers, why do you write? Readers, what are you passionate about?


  1. Love this post, Jana! I'm going to grab those questions and answer them for myself.

  2. I love this piece! Especially what. You say about hoping that something you write will outlive you. That’s a good thing to hope, too. Thanks, Jana.

  3. Thanks ladies. It's a topic that I've been thinking about a lot given the sorry state of my writing income. But for better or worse, writing is what speaks to me. Nan, if I were to write something that readers enjoyed years from now, that would be almost as good as making a decent living from writing!