Guest Post: Why Write A Book?

Today I have a guest post from the lovely Andrea Mara, whose debut, The Other Side of the Wall, was published recently. Dublin is a busy place for book launches during the summer, and unfortunately Andrea and Carmel, a friend of mine, had theirs on the same night, and without some sort of cloning machine I couldn’t make both. I like to support other authors (because I know, quite well, the horrible, gnawing fear that no one will show up to your book launch!) so to make up for the fact that I couldn’t physically go to her launch, I invited Andrea on here instead. Take it away, Andrea! 

Why did you want to write a book?

That the question that came today from my five-year-old, as only the simplest questions with the most complex answers do. (How does sound come out of the radio? How do gears in a car work?)

Why did I want to write a book? It’s a good question, and I don’t know if I have the answer. If the question is simply why do you write? the answer is easy – it’s one a writing friend often gives when she’s asked the same question. I can’t not write.

But that refers to blogging, or general navel-gazing type writing.

If I break the kinds of writing I do into compartments – blogging, features, and fiction – then blogging is the one I truly, truly enjoy and do willingly, or even more than that, do compulsively.

And perhaps that’s logical – blogging is not paid, I have no boss, no word count, no timer, no rules, no deadlines. I’m not beholden to anyone. I can write about anything that comes into my head – how much I hate driving, saying goodbye to my old couch (four of us cried, so it got its own memorial blog post), or the time I got my brows tinted and ended up looking like someone Sellotaped a caterpillar to my forehead.

It is said that if you can make your hobby your job, you’ll be happy for life, and for sure, if you’re lucky enough to do that, work is likely to be a lot more fulfilling than doing a job you hate.

But at the same time, once anything becomes work, it becomes, well, work. If you have to complete it by a certain time, to a certain standard, ready for judgement by one or many people, it takes on a new dimension and might not be quite as much fun. And that’s all very well when it’s a 1,200 word feature for a newspaper, something that can be completed in a few days or weeks, but what about a book? 100, 000 words; life-suspending deadlines; Christmas-cancelling pressure, and no idea if in the end anyone will like it – who would willingly do that? I can see where my five-year-old is coming from.

I don’t think anyone does it for the money. Unless you’re selling seven million copies, you’re probably not doing it for the money, and there have been many newspaper articles recently on just how little Irish authors earn.

I don’t think anyone does it to be famous – most authors aren’t famous.

And I doubt anyone does it because it’s easy – we can unanimously agree it’s not easy.

Perhaps some people do it because they love writing fiction, and they don’t mind whether or not their work is ever published. But most authors and aspiring authors I know (with some exceptions) would like to be published.

Maybe some write because it’s enjoyable. I think it’s enjoyable when you’re in the zone – when you’re knee-deep in a scene and feeling every emotion the characters are feeling and tapping out the drama with your fingers flying on the keys; furiously flurrying, needing to get it all down. But for every day like that, there are days when you sit down and stare at a blank screen, looking for any distraction possible to avoid having to come up with the words.

So why do it?

For me, having turned it over in my mind since my son asked me the question, I think it’s because I wondered what if this is something I can do, and what if I don’t try? What if it’s my thing, but I never find out?

I had a story rattling around in my head – prompted by the many night wakings of my babies, wondering what would happen if I saw something in the middle of the night. I wanted to try writing down the story and see where it would go. What if it was terrible? But then, what if it wasn’t?

And in the end, doing it was easier than not doing it, and wondering what might have been.

Thanks, Andrea!

Andrea Mara is a freelance writer, author, and blogger, who lives in Dublin with her husband and three young children. She writes lifestyle features for Irish newspapers, magazines, and websites, and has won multiple awards for blogging. She attempts – often badly – to balance work, family and writing, then lets off steam on her blog, When she’s not keeping one eye on the kids, and the other on Twitter, she’s furiously scribbling notes for her next book.

Her first book, a psychological thriller set in South Dublin, is called The Other Side of the Wall. It’s available now in bookshops, and on Amazon.


8 thoughts on “Guest Post: Why Write A Book?

  1. office mum says:

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to guest-post Catherine – writing-related posts aren’t really a fit on my own blog, so I’m delighted to have had the chance to waffle on about it here!

  2. Joel D Canfield says:

    “What if I can, but I don’t?” is an excellent reason to write—a first book. (Your cover frightens me. Well done!)

    I’ve spent the past 18 months wallowing in anguish, wondering why I’m finishing my 7th and 8th novels. Clearly, as you say, not about money, not getting famous, certainly not easy. But finishe them I will.

    Perhaps I have my compartments laid out differently. I blog and write nonfiction because it’s part of our business. It’s work writing, and while I enjoy it, it’s still work.

    Why do I write fiction? Why do I agonize over plot holes and suspensions of disbelief and such things? It is, I think, because I can’t not do it. Not writing makes me wonder who I am. And somehow, writing dozens of songs every year doesn’t feel like it makes me “a writer” though that’s nonsense; of course songwriting is writing.

    Perhaps I write because it’s better than throwing off all my clothes and leaping into a copse of teddy bear cholla cactus.

    • office mum says:

      It really makes you think doesn’t it, and reading your answer is making me think more about it. Today I got five hours to write, for the first time ever. And I worked only on fiction, and it was tough going at times, but at other times it was just where I wanted to be. I’m not sure a morning on freelance writing has ever been as satisfying. Maybe that’s it. Though I’m still not sure. Maybe we just like agonising…!

      • Joel D Canfield says:

        Art and my attitude toward it reminds me of the weather some places I’ve lived: if you don’t like it, wait five minutes and you’ll have something completely different.

        It’s a living thing, growing and changing, and I struggle to accept that some days/months/years will be better than others.

  3. Jon (Jerry) Laiche says:

    Hello Catherine, I have been following you for several years now, and I cannot thank you enough for getting me through the self publishing morass many months past. I am working on vol.2 now. But that’s not why I am writing you. My real question is “what about non-fiction?” My book combines real history and “possible stories” about what happened during the time when the real historical events were happening. I think its called creative non-fiction. Anyway, I would like to see more workaday stuff about the processes and problems encountered in doing such work. Meanwhile, great work on your novels, and looking forward to more.

  4. Priyanka Gahlawat says:

    Hi. Innocent question with some deep answers. I personally haven’t really written much since school and it has been a long time. But my answer would be that I write because it allows me to feel and express my emotions. I am not a very verbal person and many times people don’t want to understand your point of view. Writing just helps me express myself better. Hope get enough inspiration to write a book someday. Cheers and good luck.

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