Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Raging Need for Creativity

Guardians of the Galaxy
I remember, very distinctly, a pivotal moment early on in my writing career. I didn't even have a "career" yet - in fact, I was about to give up on ever being able to write for a living. (This was before the selfpub revolution, so bear with me.)

You see, I had only been writing for a short while, but I was already smitten with that crazy love that makes you stay up late, fingers at keyboard, lost in your world. Loving your characters, tormenting them, saving them... giving all the best lines to your secret favorite side character. It was all great, except... I had just figured out that writers didn't make any money. Even if I caught the gold ring of publishing - a contract with a house - chances were my advance would be small, and I'd never be able to make a living at it.

This made me angry.

So, naturally, I went to see a movie. By myself. In the middle of the day, while my kids were at school (I never do this). I can't remember the movie now, but it was something I really enjoyed. At the end, I sat in the theater as everyone emptied out, unmoving, in a complete rage. I wanted to create stories like I had just seen on the screen! I wanted to move people, make them laugh, make them cry, make them feel. I wanted to do this full-time. How dare the world tell me that was impossible!

The rage coursed through me for about ten minutes, until I got out to the car. Then I realized: no one could stop me from writing my stories. No one. Whether they sold or not mattered little - what mattered was the creation itself. The only person who could stop me was... me.

It was the first time I realized two things: 1) creating stories was no longer optional for me, and 2) making a living from it wasn't what justified spending time on it. Creation had value all to itself.

Now, years later, I do make a living from my works. But I was reminded of this moment once again, as I sat in a theater watching Guardians of the Galaxy (great film, by the way): bearing witness to fantastically creative works often surges up an urgent need to create inside me. But with the kids home for the summer, vacations, and a hundred other distractions, I hadn't been doing that creative work for over a week... and that anger was starting to well up again.

This time I recognized it for what it was: my soul saying, stop with that other pointless stuff and do the creation you're meant to do. It's that dig-down-deep moment in the movie, when the characters look at each other and decide to become the heroes: to do the important thing, not just the thing that saves their skins or makes them a billion credits. It's the moment we, as viewers, live for because it resonates in our own souls.

I'm heeding that voice: this weekend, I'll be taking a few days to myself, running off to a hotel to write. Not because I need to crank out words to make a living... but because I need to replenish my soul with creative acts.

I hope you'll find a spot of time this weekend to do the same.


  1. Well said. Creativity is a force that operates independently of the trappings of success. --Lindsay

  2. You said this PERFECTLY. That is exactly the fork in the road I'm at. I too, just sat in a movie, thinking about walking away from writing, and actually wept over the impact of the story on the screen and my desire to connect with that world. I left the theatre wishing I could write like that, that I'd written it. That I want to do that, I want to write memorable recognized works that people treasure, that affect them on such a deep and emotional level the buzz with the feel of that movie(story) long after the initial experience...and I've always wanted to write for film, which seems a major leap of faith away at this moment, and it all made me very sad. Thanks for this little reminder. That $ signs don't determine the worth of creativity.

  3. Totally agree! This is a realization I came to as well - that creating the work was the important point. I decided whether 5 people read it or 5,000, I will just keep writing the stories I have inside. Of course, I would love to be where you are some day, but even if I never gain more than five readers, I will be doing this for life.

  4. I loved this blog! You have done so much work since this decision - to the great thanks of your readers. I look forward to the next thing you publish, First Daughter. Enjoy your retreat.

  5. Well said. When I reflect on this, I can tell which urges are the forces of creativity and which are the 'concerns' of acceptance/validation/ success/achievement simply by how my body feels. Both have me feeling quite hyped-up, but the creative urge feels so much healthier and more fulfilling. The other leaves me tense and anxious. If I ever 'make' it in terms of the second one, I'm sure that will be exciting and a positive thing, but for now I'll take your excellent advice and focus on the first one.

  6. The opposite is true too ... that rage you feel when you see/read something so bad that you know, in the furthest corners of your spirit, that you can write better than that.

  7. Thank you! Inspiration at its best. This was the kick in the tush that I needed. I've been afraid to finish several debut "novels" for fear of not knowing what I'm doing. I scour craft books for that ever elusive " thing" that will give me the "you know this now write" I didn't want to admit confidence and fear is what held me back, but your post held a mirror up for me. Thank you, this weekend I will write!

  8. THANK YOU for posting this. A good word at a good time...

  9. Yay for you, Susan! Thankfully it's not about the money for me either. I would have quit years ago. And thankfully my hubby and sons are super supportive.

    I hope you unleashed that creativity!

  10. What's even more comfortable when you are entertaining after a day of hard work.