WHY I BECAME A WRITER
and other Stuff
By Kathryn Meyer Griffith
Author of 22 published novels, 2 novellas and 12 short stories since 1984
This post was originally written in 2011…
right before I discovered self-publishing and then everything changed.
And a 2015 update is at the very end of the post.
Truthfully, what started me off as an author was simply this: As a child, about eight or nine years old (the same time I began to draw pictures in pencil and years before I began to dream about being a singer with my younger brother Jim), I began reading books, science fiction, historical romances and scary books from the library. I had six brothers and sisters and though I had a loving mother and father, a loving family, there was very little money. I can’t say we were poverty poor, but we were poor at times. Sometimes our meals were scarce and we never had extra money for many toys or outside entertainment. I think in my whole young childhood my father only took us out to eat once. Try paying for seven kids and two adults. So we learned to entertain ourselves. We played outside, climbed trees and hid in deep dirt gullies. We sang, howled really, outside at night on the swing set.
I loved to read. The library books were free and plentiful. I’d sit on my bed, especially during the long summer days and evenings (after chores were done, of course) and read one amazing book after another and if I was lucky, with a chocolate snack or cherry Kool-Aid nearby. Those books, those words on the page, took me away to other places, times and worlds. It was magical. I got lost in people-on-a-spaceship-going–to-some-faraway-planet science fiction books. There was this one horse book when I was a kid that knocked me out, made me cry, and laugh with joy at the end it was so real to me and so full of pathos because I loved horses so much. It was called Smoky. I loved that book. Sigh. I never forgot how those wonderful books made me feel…so free. So adventurous. So rich. Like I could be or do anything someday. And when I grew up I wanted to create that magic myself for others. So…that’s why I began writing. And when I get depressed over my writing at times, I remember that.
I remember vividly one day at school, when I was about 10 or so, when a big box of Weekly Reader books were delivered and we each got to pick one to read. The smell of those new books in that box as I looked at them, the excitement and awe of the other kids over the books and the reverence for those authors, and I thought: Wouldn’t it be something if someday a box of these books were mine…written by me? Oh, to be an author. People respect an author. It was the beginning.
Then there’s also a second part to the question: Why do I keep writing after 44 years of it? Because I can’t not write. I can’t stop. The stories take over my heart and mind and demand to come out. It’s sort of like birthing a baby (I have one real son and two grandchildren myself). You carry them for a while, a short or long time span, and then once they’re born (published) they go on to be their own individual entities that sometimes continue to amuse and amaze you. Or disappoint you. Whatever.
This is what it’s like to be a published author.
It’s not like anything you would imagine. There’s excitement, the passion and feeling of being right with the world, as the story is being created and the words are tumbling out into the computer; there’s the exhaustion of writing hours and hours, the doubt that your words will mean anything to anyone and why am I doing this? that creeps in but that you have to chase away; there’s the pride in seeing the finished book, either e-book or print, and finally there’s the feeling of unexplainable happiness when someone says they read it and liked/loved it. The best response I love to hear is: I couldn’t put it down. The characters were all so real. I got carried away with it. Didn’t want to leave the world you’d created. Wow. That makes the sometimes low pay and grueling hard work all worthwhile because writing is hard work, or, at least, the creating and promoting of it anyway. Hour and hour, day after day, year after year. It’s your life you’re using up, your precious time and you have to truly love it to give all that up…to strangers.
Sometimes people ask me: is it still fun?
Fun? That’s a strange way to put it. Sometimes, rarely, it’s fun. Mostly it’s hard work and lots of solitary time alone. Writers live so much of their life in their make believe worlds they get lonely for the real world, real breathing people and adventures. I know I do. But the writing won’t leave me alone until I write down the words and tell the tale. The easiest way I can put it is when I’m writing or dealing with my writing I feel like I’m doing what I was born to do. Yes, I believe a writer is born to write–like an artist is born to paint and draw; a musician to write or play music. As an artist myself I know I’m not truly happy, or fulfilled feeling, unless I’m writing, drawing or singing. Creating. Though the singing and the artwork have gone more by the wayside as I’ve become older and writing mostly takes all my free time now. Yes, writing does make me happy. Grin. Except the rare times someone hates one of my books and that happens, too. I’ve finally learned that reading and loving a book or short story is subjective. Some people love my stories, get them, and others…don’t. And that’s okay. We’re all different people. That’s a lesson a writer must learn. One person’s criticism is not a blanket criticism of all your work or even that one work, it’s just one person’s opinion.
Is it lucrative? This first part I originally wrote in 2o11… before I started self-publishing in August 2012. Now, in 2015, with 9 books self-published of my 22 I am making a good living at my writing for the first time ever. And when I finally own and self-publish the rest of my 22 books (14 are still with a publisher that I make very little money on) I will be making really good money. But here’s my answer from 2011: That’s a loaded question and most writers will not talk about how much they make or a book makes. Maybe, this is just my theory, it’s because most of us make so little it embarrasses us. There’s no way we could ever live on it. It’s icing on the cake, trim on the woodwork, for the mid-level writers anyway. The top (very rare) writers like Stephen King, Dean Koontz and many other writers make a very good living, but most writers don’t. Ever. Oh, in my heyday in the 1980’s and early 1990’s I made fairly good money with Leisure and Zebra paperbacks, because back then the distribution and print runs were so large. I got a smaller percent in royalties but there were more books out there on the shelves and in the stores selling for me. So far the e-books and PODs (Print on Demand) aren’t selling that well, but I get a much larger percentage. I’m hoping in the next year by having all my old 10 novels out again (re-released between June 2010 and June 2012) and 2 new books I’ll see a gradual increase in income. It’s an experiment, sort of. Selling a small quantity each 3 months of 12 or more books might add up to a nice sum. Or so I’m hoping. I’m marketing (a whole new thing in the Internet world these days) a lot, seeking and getting great 4 and 5 star reviews, joining reader and writer loops, guest blogging, etc. It’s never ending. Thing is I don’t know how much it all helps. Eventually, I figure, I’ll find out. I’m an optimist always. 2015 Update: I made the worst money between 2010 and 2015 with this publisher than I’d ever made. Thank goodness I discovered self-publishing in late 2012 and began switching my books into it. Well, I live and learn.
Do I still enjoy writing? This was my answer in 2011 and in 2015 I still feel the same way: Sure. I love it. It’s like breathing, eating, dreaming. It’s become part of me. It’s second nature. It took me over 40 years to say: I’m a writer. And really feel like I wasn’t being a pretentious so-and-so or outright lying. It took me all that time and many published books, novellas and short stories, and more to come hopefully, for me to feel deserving of the title. Even without the money, telling stories is what makes me feel…complete. Happy. Hey, look at me I’m a storyteller! Ha, ha, now I just have to figure out a way to make it more profitable, as well. Thank you.
* Written by the author Kathryn Meyer Griffith on a sultry August day not so long ago (2011)…
2015 update: And I did find a way to make it more profitable because I started self-publishing. As one successful Indie writer recently said to me: Just get the books out there…nothing else matters, except presumably good books, I’d add. The rest will come. And now I have NINE self-published books out everywhere and I’m discovering it does come. Stay tuned for my next blog…the backstory of my 2010 end-of-days novel A Time of Demons and Angels.
My Books are here:
My Audible audio books are here:
Evil Stalks the Night, The Heart of the Rose, Blood Forge, Vampire Blood, The Last Vampire, Witches, The Nameless One short story, The Calling, Scraps of Paper, Ghosts Beneath Us, Egyptian Heart, Winter’s Journey, The Ice Bridge, Don’t Look Back, Agnes, Before the End: A Time of Demons, The Woman in Crimson, Human No Longer, Four Spooky Short Stories Collection, Forever and Always Romantic Short, Night carnival Short Story, Dinosaur Lake, Dinosaur Lake II: Dinosaurs Arising and Dinosaur Lake III: Infestation