I sat in the coffeehouse in classic avoidance mode. My eyes roamed the store, wanting to look anywhere but at the computer screen. I was struggling with my writing, feeling dry. I wanted to pack up and go home.
I looked out the window and noticed a sign that was there. It said: do it for love, not for profit.
My eyes widened as if God Himself had put that sign in front of me. I felt like I had received a direct blow to my solar plexus.
Suddenly, I knew why I was having trouble writing. I was not doing it for the love anymore.
Something happens when you become a contracted writer. Business enters in. Contracts and costs and commitments infringe on craft. Your focus shifts ever so slightly, and then ever so slightly more. You hardly notice that you aren't writing for the same reason until... you're sitting in a coffeeshop struggling to put words on the screen. You know you're there because you have to be, not because you long to be.
When I wrote The Mailbox, I was passionate about just telling the story at hand. I had no deadline looming, no one to answer to. The process felt... purer somehow.
This time I hammered out my second novel on deadline. I wrote 1000 words a day without fail-- Remember the "time to make the donuts" guy? Well that was me except mine was "time to write 1000 words." I wasn't moved to write, I was moved to hand in something on time. Not that I didn't love my idea but I wasn't giving myself the time to ponder and simmer, to play with words the way I love to.
The other day I had a conversation with a writing friend. She said that the difference in a professional and an amateur is simple. A pro gets paid. The word amateur, she said, has in its root the word amo, or love. An amateur, she said, still has a love for what they're doing.
I want to write for love, and not for profit-- as the sign said. With my next book I might just write it first, because I want to, the way I did Mailbox. With no eye on deadline or publishing houses or contracts or sales figures. Just an eye for the great story I am burning to tell.
If you are an uncontracted writer, treasure the place you're in. Write for the love, not for profit. Celebrate being an amateur today. That's a state I am working hard to stay in. I want to always be an amateur.