“Most writers don’t make a living at writing.” I’ve heard that many times. It’s meant to be discouraging and, yes, it is. As a young writer, one sees the writers who are obviously making a living at it and it’s natural to think to oneself, “I want to do that.”
The reality is that the old cliche is true and most of us who aspire to be writers won’t be living in Breckenridge anytime soon. Colorado, anyway. I might could live in Breckenridge, TX … no, I’m not making enough money off writing to live there, either.
So, what are we encouraged to do? Many times, I was told to look out at the world and see what sells and try to learn from that. What I was supposed to learn was pretty ambiguous. Was I supposed to copy the prominant authors and write a legal thriller like Gresham, or a spy novel like Ludlum, or a western like L’Amour? Or was it a more nebulous piece of advice and I was supposed to tap into some perceived sensibility of the crowd: like greed in the 80s or an inability to vote for competent leadership in the 90s?
I went another direction. I didn’t know what people wanted to read, or how to find out, and I wasn’t entirely sure that it mattered. I knew what I wanted to read, so I have written accordingly. It may be selfish and, if you’re wont to point out that it isn’t likely to lead to fortune I can only say that I noticed that some time ago.
Still, I write what I want to read. And, whether it’s time travel or Christian relationships (see “Psalm 88″ or any of the dozen other unpublished novels I’ve written), the main thing that interests me is: how do people think? When I watch the news, I frequently find myself asking, “What was he thinking?!?!” From the criminal who does something really boneheaded during the commission of a crime, to the lab assistant who has just discovered something that will benefit us all, I’m wondering what they were thinking. Was what happened an accident or did they know what they were shooting for? Is this person, who is going through something really momentous, married? Do they have kids? Are they really good at their job but stink at talking to their teenager?
So I put people who are dealing with other people in a situation that makes the stakes of the deal higher and see what happens. I do hope someone else will enjoy reading about these people–they mean a lot to me–but the first audience is still me.