Books are important. We know this, obviously, or we wouldn’t be spending our lives writing them and our houses wouldn’t be buried in them. But if you’re anything like me, you might be tempted sometimes to think that your books don’t count, and to ask yourself, “why bother?”
Maybe you’ve encountered that dark night of the soul in the middle of a novel when you believe your writing totally sucks and the plot holes are really Black Holes of Doom that will suck you in, body, mind and soul, never to be seen again. Maybe you’ve been weak enough to stare at Author Central for an hour at a time, contemplating how many books you haven’t sold. Or maybe you’ve succumbed to reading bad reviews. Maybe you’ve been dumped by your publisher or are having conflict with your agent, or maybe you’re just damn exhausted from trying to carve out writing time in the middle of a very busy life.
Whatever the reason, maybe you’ve thought about giving up on writing stories.
Don’t. Books matter. Your books matter, even if you can’t see it right now.
Last week this happened:
If you don’t know Terry Pratchett, he was the author of the Discworld novels – a wonderful fantasy series that was also satire and social commentary. A few years back, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. His courage and persistence in the face of this death sentence (and can you imagine a more terrible fate for a writer than to know that little by little you are going to lose your ability to think?) he kept writing. He also made it publicly known that when the time came he would end his life on his own terms. I don’t know the details of his death. What I do know, is that when I read this post on Twitter the tears hit me hard and sudden.
And there’s a story behind that. It wasn’t just Pratchett’s death that triggered my grief, it was the connection to the death of a friend.
A few years back I was working with a man named Wes, who shared my passion for books. I hadn’t read Discworld and he said that needed to be remedied. He owned them all, and began bringing them in for me, one at a time, in order. I would read the book, bring it back, and we would discuss it with great enthusiasm.
And then one day, not too long after I had read my way through the entire series, Wes didn’t come to work. I went to his house to check on him, and found him in bed, lifeless and cold. He had an open book beside him.
Terry Pratchett’s death hit me hard, reminding me of Wes and our friendship and that loss. And I was struck by that fact that his books bonded us that strongly together. When I pick up a Discworld novel now, it is always and forever going to bring my lost friend back to me. Also, one of my favorite characters in the books just happens to be DEATH (he always speaks in caps) and there is comfort in this, and in imagining Wes hanging out with him.
So how do your books connect to the death of a very popular writer?
Here’s what I’m thinking. If even ONE reader finds comfort in something you wrote, then that’s worth it, isn’t it? Or if two readers bond over your words, then that is a human connection and this is important. Our society, for the most part, promotes isolation. A lot of people drift around, not feeling connected to anything or anybody. Anything that anchors us, helps us find common ground with other humans, matters.
And so, then, do our books. Whether we ever “make it” in publishing (whatever that means) or not.
I plan to keep writing until I’m too old and broken to be able to type the words. I hope you will too.
Kerry is the queen of the misfit story. She writes fantasy that has its teeth sunk into reality, mystery that delves into the paranormal, and women’s fiction that embraces the dark and twisty realms of humanity.