I asked my youngest daughter today if she was going to be a writer like me. She looked up at me with the beautiful round eyes and a smile, so I knew what she was going to say even before it came out her mouth: "Nooooooo!" Then she laughed as if it was the most ridiculous question I could've asked. Maybe asking a three-year-old her aspirations for the future is a little silly, if not premature, but it got me thinking about just why I write.
Of course, I can't speak for them. We all have our reasons. Some of the fortunate do it because that's how they earn their living. For others, it's something they like to do in their spare time or retirement. And I would guess many are hoping to hit the big time, to be the next Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or James Patterson.
I work at a middle school, and I don't often talk about my writing with the students. I have only one novel out of six that I feel is really appropriate for the age group. Plus, I don't want to create the impression I am using my position to promote my writing sales. But several kids found out I’m and author, and one came up to me and said, "Mr. Johnston, why don't you tell everyone who you really are?" My confused look must have given away the fact that I had no idea what he was talking about, so he went on, "I know you're rich and you only teach here as research for your next book."
And I thought I had the active imagination!
The stereotype of the rich writer that only works a day job as research for his/her next novel is a pleasant enough one, but it isn't true—I would imagine—in most cases. Few writers make enough to live exclusively on their art, but that is the nature of working in the arts, and that's okay.
So what is my real motivation to write? Is it the feeling of accomplishment? That moment when I am holding a book I wrote in your hands, shuffling through the pages, reading random pieces of prose that are so brilliant there is no way I could have written them—except I did! Or, is my motivation one where I know if I keep at it, my hard work will pay off financially?
Or perhaps there is another option: my love of reading. When I have an interest in reading a book that doesn’t exist, it’s on me to write it—and it’s a burden I will gladly shoulder every time.