Welcome to the fourth day of MARCH BOOK MADNESS!
.Today, author Sharon Belknap is here. Sharon and I have been friends for about eight years. When I found out she was a writer, I was astounded because she’s one of those people who seems to do everything: crafts, photography, composing music, interior designing. She’s always stylish. She’s super nice. Plus, plus, plus, she has eight kids AND a clean house. So…yeah.
Sharon and I swap manuscripts, which means she’s read my stuff early on when it’s ugly and confusing. Yet, she makes comments that are not only helpful, but don’t tear out my soul. :) I really value her insight. (And her book is awesome, btw. It’s a time-travel romance. I can’t wait to see in print someday.)
Last September, Sharon drove across the country with me to attend the first ever LDStorymaker’s Midwest Writer’s Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. We spent 30 hours in the car together, and I don’t think there were more than 3 minutes of silence. At the conference, she and I split up to hit as many classes as we could. Then we spent the whole ride home talking about how to make our books better with all we learned. She’s great. I love her.
Sharon Belknap: Why Everyone Should Be a Writer
I believe there’s a writer in each of us.
I believe one of our greatest desires, above happiness, is the desire to make our lives mean something. What better way to make our mark on the world than to leave our stories, histories, insights, and words of wisdom? Recording these is a way to insure we won’t be forgotten. Think of all the stories, both fiction and nonfiction, we know throughout history. We only have these stories because at some point they were written down.
I believe this ability is something that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. If other creatures have thoughts and feelings, they don’t have the same means to express them. As humans, we have unique gifts. We can express ourselves in so many ways and by so many means. We can talk, dance, paint, and sing. And we can WRITE.
So why should you, sitting at the computer, take time to write?
Here are five reasons:
1) Record your own histories
I look back to my ancestors. What evidence do I have to their existence? I have a few pictures. I have many names. But more meaningful, I have their stories.
I have some background stories, some examples of the history of the lands and times in which they lived. I have several secondhand accounts of events surrounding some of them. But what speaks most intimately to me, what draws me to want to know and understand my progenitors are first-hand accounts: their journal entries, letters sent to loved ones, the thoughts and feelings they memorialized by putting them to pen.
2) Writing is therapeutic
Writing can be a great way to relieve stress. It can help analyze what you’re truly feeling and why. It can also help work through those emotions.
Studies show that:
- Most people feel happier and healthier after writing about deeply traumatic memories
- College students had more active Tlymphocyte cells, an indication of immune system stimulation, six weeks after writing about stressful events
- People tend to take fewer trips to the doctor, function better in day-to-day tasks, and score higher on tests of psychological well-being after writing
- Expressive writing can ease the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis
3) As a writer, you become a student of human nature
Writing opens your eyes to the world around you. As a writer, you focus more on the minute details that would be otherwise ignored.
I can’t watch a movie anymore without noting facial expressions, reactions, conversations, and interactions. I mentally articulate descriptions in the setting around me. How would I describe the song of a bird or the mood of a person?
I notice more. I enjoy more.
4) Writing enhances your communication skills
This may sound like a no-brainer as writing is a form of communication, but hear me out.
Often our communication is hampered because we don’t know how to accurately express ourselves. Writing regularly helps hone the skill of self-expression. Just as with everything else, practices makes perfect. Or at least better. Good writing takes an element of organization. Written organization can translate to the way you speak. It can even make you think differently.
5) Writing helps you stay organized
At the very least, we should all use writing as a tool of organization. Using lists and setting goals are two ways in which writing helps us make the most of our time. A written goal brings clarity and focus. It gives you a direction.
Writing lists allows you to unload your mental RAM. When you don’t have to use your mind’s resources for things such as shopping lists and calendar events, it becomes easier to think clearly. There are only so many thought that can bumble around in your head at once. Writing these things down makes room for more important things. Many times, the solution to a problem will present itself if it is clearly written and defined.
Have you been converted yet?
- If you aren’t writing regularly, I would encourage you to do so. Start small. Write about your own life experiences.
- If you do write regularly, kudos! You already know the joy and satisfaction that writing adds to your life.
Once you’ve been bitten by the bug…
The road to writing is full of adventure. But there are dangers as well.
Many who travel this road are bitten by the writing bug. The bite starts as a little itch, but that itch grows until it becomes a full-fledged disease. It’s a disease similar to the chickenpox: once in your system, it’s always present, though its symptoms may have periods of dormancy.
Here are some of its symptoms:
- Do characters invade your mind, depriving you of sleep?
- Do you hear voices at random times and in the most unlikely places?
- Do you turn off the radio in the car and talk to characters, or contemplate what they’d be shopping for?
- Does writing make your heart beat faster?
- Do you carry a notebook wherever you go, including bed?
- Do you find your ability to enjoy a book infringed on by the thought that the author should have done something different?
- Do you find yourself opting out of social invitations to write instead?
- Have you stopped volunteering at your children’s schools in order to write?
- Are you on a first name basis with your local librarian?
If you exhibit four of these symptoms, you’ve been infected.
Okay, maybe there is no such disease. But writing is infectious. And rewarding. Maybe you already know all of this. Maybe you’ve been writing for years.
Perhaps you’re contemplating writing as a profession
If you write, you probably read. A lot. You’ve read good books, but more that aren’t so good.
“I could do better than this,” you say to yourself. “I could write a book and make millions of dollars. Any schmuck can write a book, right? All it takes is a little talent and a lot of dedication.”
The idea starts to grow.
“I could work from home, spend a year writing. My book could be a bestseller.”
You see yourself walking down the red carpet, Stephen King on one arm and Stephenie Meyer on the other, wads of money spilling from the tails of your evening gown.
Stop right there.
If this is why you’re writing, STOP. RIGHT. NOW.
One reason not to become a writer
If you imagine that you’ll make your fortune by writing, think again.
The hard facts aren’t pretty. The average published author is reported to make $30,000 a year, according to The New York Times. And that’s if you count writing as your day job. Most writers can’t do that. Most people who qualify themselves as writers must maintain a supplemental income.
According to the Author Advance Survey, the average advance on a published book is $5000. For a book. That takes years to write and edit.
What about self-publishing? According to The Guardian, half of self-published authors earn less than $500 in 2011.
I don’t bring this to your attention to discourage you. I convey this information so that you can ask yourself this question:
Why do I write?
I believe we all have unique and valuable stories to record, whether they’re from our own experiences or from those we invent. But the desire to write needs to come from within. Each writer should have a motive other than financial gain that drives them.
The road to writing is one of self-discovery. It’s filled with great adventures and amazing characters. It opens your eyes to the world around you. It can lead you places you never thought you would go. But it’s a road not often paved with gold.
Now go out and write, but do it for yourself!
Sharon Belknap is an avid reader and aspiring writer. She enjoys listening to and composing music, decorating, photography, Pinterest, and anything crafty. But most of all she enjoys her full-time job as a wife and mother to eight children.
(Check out Sharon’s post on MARCH BOOK MADNESS last year where she talked about the love of reading.)
See. I told you. Awesome.
Thank you, Sharon. I love all the reasons you state why everyone should be a writer — especially #2. Writing is definitely therapeutic for me. My hubby can tell when I’ve gone a few days without writing. It’s not pretty.
And I love the analogy of the writing bug.
I’ve mentioned this on my blog before, but I never planned write books. My dad is an author. Growing up, I loved reading his books, but writing was his thing. As I got married and had a few kids, I started journaling, writing our family histories, and I loved, loved, loved writing our Christmas letters. Thanks to Sharon, I realize I was a writer even back then. I just didn’t know it. :)
And once I started this fiction thing . . . Man, that bug bit me hard!
When people ask me why I write, my answer is, “Because I can’t not write.” I think that’s true for most authors.
- (Sorry about the double-negative grammar peeps.)
Now it’s your turn. Everyone has a different writing story. I’m curious to know yours.
Why do you write? How did you get started? Did you plan to write, or did the writing bug bite you out of nowhere? Join the discussion below.
Next up on MARCH BOOK MADNESS…
You can read more about March Book Madness here, but basically it’s an excuse for me to discuss everything about writing, editing, and reading books with some amazing authors and readers.
Fun, fun, fun!
Here’s the schedule:
- Tue, Mar 5: Weeding Your Words, by Charissa Stastny
- Wed, Mar 6: Know Your Audience–Even the Subtle One, by Cindy Piper
- Thu, Mar 7: Beating a Dead Horse, by Julie L Casey
- Tue, Mar 12: Why Everyone Should Be a Writer, by Sharon Belknap
- Wed, Mar 13: Reading in the Digital Age, by JoLynne Lyon
- Thu, Mar 14: The Art of Accepting Criticism, by Mary Bateman-Mercado
- Tue, Mar 19: Pinterested in Books, by Sarah Belliston
- Wed, Mar 20: The Power of Storytelling, by Christopher Rosche
- Thu, Mar 21: Never Pity the Adverb, by Anthony Mercado
- Tue, Mar 26: Creating Flawed but Likeable Characters, by A.L. Sowards
- Wed, Mar 27: Priorities and Choices for Writers, by Braden Bell
- Thu, Mar 28: Premise vs Plot – Which Do You Have? by Janice Hardy
The collective talent listed above . . . Wow! It’s going to be a great month.
Check out last year’s MARCH BOOK MADNESS here.