There are lots of reasons to write, but they start with a simple division: private versus public.
I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words for private reasons, but I’ve also written a helluva lot for public consumption. Often I’ve been paid for public writing. Sometimes not. But in the end, the hope is that the writing reaches someone, and better yet, that they let the writer know.
I have had the privilege of actually meeting many of the writers who reached me such as Clive Doucet and Lucille Clifton. Others, such as Bill Pronzini and Randy Wayne White I’ve dropped electronic notes to and they have been kind enough to answer. I was slowly writing a letter to F.M. Busby whose ‘The Demu Trilogy’ is the second most often stolen book from my library (at least five copies have been lent out without being returned) when I found out he died. I wished I’d been faster about letting Busby know how much I loved his book.
Most of the public things we write are not actually for anyone we know. I am clear that my readership is not particularly my circle of acquaintances. That is the reason why when I FaceBook acceptances and publications, I don’t include links. I know I have lots of friends who are happy to hear that I’ve had another poem or story accepted. But that doesn’t mean they want to read it. Those who do will find a link.
A rare exception to this principle is when we write in-group as I have done with ‘Modern Poems of Pennsic’. No doubt people outside the SCA will read this book. No doubt people inside the SCA who I have not met will read this book. But this is a rare occasion when a lot of people I know will read what I’ve written.
In fact, within the first two hours of my FaceBooking the availability of the book, there were fifty downloads, and three readers had already taken the time to comment on the book.
To be sure, it is a great feeling to get paid for writing. And, I confess, the first time I was in a bookstore and saw a magazine with my name on the cover I was stunned. I had to come back a few more times just to soak in the fact that they were using my name to sell copies.
But feedback (within appropriate channels) is an amazing incentive to write. This explains the large number of bloggers plugging away on the internet. Add the principle of in-group high feedback, and fan-fic makes a lot of sense as an alternative to commercial markets.
That said, I still send most of my writing to paying markets. Just saying...
Oh, and you didn’t think I was going to leave you hanging, did you? The most often stolen book from my library (eight copies lent out and not returned) is ‘Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon’ by Spider Robinson.