The book I’m writing at present is not the one I should be writing. The book I should be writing is one far more likely to sell. A book with a high concept, or one featuring a new character around whom I could build a “franchise.” Instead, I’m writing the seventh book in my Aaron Gunner private eye series, a novel that fits the description of a can’t-miss bestseller about as well I fit that of an Osmond brother.
Why? Because I want to.
Sorry, but that’s the only real reason I’ve got. I haven’t written a book about Gunner in ages and I miss the man. I had a great idea for an opening that turned into a great idea for a Gunner novel and I simply couldn’t find the will to put off writing it. I’ve been far more calculating about my book projects than this in the past, on a number of occasions, but for the most part, this is how I’ve always operated: chasing the joy, not the dime.
I know I’m not alone in taking this ass-backwards route to success, but I wonder just how many bestselling authors have had it pay off? Is anybody making real money and having fun writing at the same time? Doing only what they want to do, without exception?
God, I hope so.
Because I can’t write worth a damn if I’m not having fun. I’ve tried writing like an adult, with the detached efficiency of a plumber running pipe or an insurance salesman hawking life-term policies, and I hate it. Writing for me is a slog under the best circumstances, and having fun — yes, fun — is the only way I get through it. My need to write is all about the stories I feel compelled to tell, not the bills I’m obligated to pay. The long-term dream for me has never been as simple as to make a living writing; the dream has always been to someday have it both ways: to write exactly what I want to write, each and every time out of the box, and make a damn good living doing it.
Evidence to date would suggest I’m just kidding myself, but that’s okay. Hope springs eternal.
So I’m writing Gunner Number 7 and loving it. It’s hard work, and some days it feels like I’m trying to pull a cow on a leash through a field of quicksand — but I don’t mind.
It’s my cow, and it makes me feel good.