To You, Writer

Tonight, I want to rant at all the people who have said that writing and art don’t matter, that only getting paid matters, that writing is a waste of time, that it’s selfish. I want to lay out a lightening bolt of angry heat that will destroy their arrogance and materialism. But that will not help because the arrogance gives them a shield as tough as as wombat’s ass and their materialism a bunker on which to sit on it.  6548986937

So instead, I speak to you, writer – by which, of course, I mean me, and I say:

You and your work matter. Even if only your dad or that one random friend or your lover or you read it. You and your work matter in big ways – ways that save lives, maybe your own – and in small ways, like a prism in your mom’s best friend’s kitchen window when you were 8. You and your work matter.

You do not waste your time when you write; you waste your time when you talk yourself out of writing, for in that time you have told yourself a lie that you will lose more time undoing. So write. Think of all the time you’ll save.

Money and writing don’t need each other. We can do all kinds of things to make our living – shining shoes at the airport, walking dogs in the city, teaching 6th graders how to write really good sentences.  Those are all worthy and wonderful occupations, and they may even be your vocation. But you don’t need to do them in order to have money to write. Writing is free.  And while we hope, love, dance joyously when we get paid for our writing, we don’t need the pay to value our work. That value comes in the way it shapes us as people, in the way a reader writes an email to say, “yes, just that, yes,” in the way someone, someday keeps a copy of something we’ve written tucked into his Bible and reads it with teary eyes on a Sunday morning.  Writing and money are mutually exclusive.

You have to find the value in writing for yourself and not hope that it will come from outside validation. Because it might not. You might never publish anything in a big literary magazine or with a big press. You may never rise up the bestseller’s list, even as you see books that are truly not as well written do so. You may never make enough money from your writing to even buy the ink and paper on which you write it. Still, write anyway.  Because when you write what is true and real, when you find just the perfect words and the tone to express what you need, it feels like something clicks to center just behind your heart. Write anyway because someone, some day may pick up a copy of a literary magazine to which you submitted your junior year of college; she may read your poem about Gettysburg and write to you to say she loved the image there and thought of it when she visited.  Write anyway because it is not up to you to determine how your work is valuable; it is only up to you that it exist.

Finally, you have to find a way to love the people who hate what you do, not because they deserve it and not because you need to invite them into your space to continually beat against you, but because being angry at them only gives their words power. Instead, find a way to see their fear and their pain. Hear their words about your writing being selfish and see that they may speak from their own belief about their work.  Hear them say that writing for money is the only authentic way to write and realize that they may need that physical validation to feel their work has value at all.  Give them your compassion, but don’t continue to invite them in. You don’t have time for that.  You need to write.

So write on, lovely Whisperers.  Write on.

If you could hear one word of encouragement for you as a writer today, what would you need to hear? 


This afternoon, I will be sending out my March newsletter with opportunities to win AWP goodies and information about my next round of classes, including a three-week grammar intensive for writers of all sorts that begins in April.  Sign up at right if you’d like to receive that newsletter.  And if you’re already getting my daily posts, be sure to click the “newsletter” box to receive that as well.  Thanks. 

  • Nate Shields

    Gracious and Strong, Andi! If people did whatever they did just for money, I can only imagine how bleak and boring the world would be.

    Thanks for pursuing the art of the written word!

    • Andi

      Thank you, Nate.

  • Chris Morris

    The one word of encouragement I would need to hear would sound something like this:

    Just because you are new to the craft of writing does not mean you have nothing to say. Your heart in this has been to bless others and inspire hope. You are on the path to seeing this happen even more than it already does happen. Hang tight, and look for glimpses of the encouragement you give to others.

    Some days, I believe this. Other days, not so much

    • Andi

      So hear this, Chris. Just because you are new to the craft of writing does not devalue your words in any way. Just because you are new does not make your words less important or less meaningful or less true. Look for the places where you see others taking joy from you. .. . and do, hang so tight, Chris. It’s a swinging, wild ride, but it’s awesome.

  • Donna

    To the writers, musicians and artists, my words of encouragement:

    “You and your work matter in big ways – ways that save lives”

    Totally and completely yes….from the Christian novel that was a mirror of my experience and offered hope ahead when I had no ability to envision it…. to the song “Indescribable” that played in a Hallmark greeting card given at a very difficult time that was sometimes the only thread I could hear and cling to…and the various books, blog posts and stories told by writers who share from their heart and experience today. You do, truly save lives. May you be blessed in return for sharing of yourself.

    • Andi

      Donna, THANK YOU!!!

  • Tammy Helfrich

    Beautifully said, Andi. Thankful for you and your words!

    • Andi

      Thank you for reading, Tammy.

  • Amy

    I was feeling a bit down today, because I’m sick and not feeling like my writing is worth much, and I’m dealing with the aftermath of some “constructive” criticism that wasn’t (it was actually just sort of rude and mean; I agree with it, but the mode of communication left a lot to be desired). I think this was the word of encouragement I needed to read today. :)

    • Chris Morris

      I am sincerely sorry you had to deal with such a mean spirited person. Glad that Andi was able to help you hit reset with yourself.

    • Andi

      Oh, Amy, boy do I hear you. . . even the good criticism – the stuff that makes my work better – is hard for me to take, so something mean would rock me hard. Glad you took heart in this a bit. Keep at it.

  • Rachel

    I got my word of encouragement yesterday, about an article that I wrote, that I didn’t get paid for–on Still Standing (–an online magazine for families who have suffered miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss and infertility. “Your words are so important in so many ways.”

    That was all I needed to steel my resolve. I have always written; I will always write.

    • Andi

      It is amazing how those small things – the emails, the comments really do matter. . . and brava to you, Rachel, for taking your story to the world and finding your healing and theirs in it.

  • Erick Burgess

    Wonderfully said. I really needed to hear that today.

    • Andi

      I’m glad you took encouragement from this, Erick. Write on.

  • tim gallen

    i say this with the utmost respect and love for everyone: shut up, and write!

    • Andi

      I like to talk about writing with folks, Tim, but yeah, I’m with you – stop worrying about what everyone else does and just do your thing. . . on paper. :)

  • Stephanie

    Thanks for the encouraging post today! I’ve been needing to hear that since I’ve passively given up on writing. And by that I mean that I haven’t actively written. I needed to hear that my writing have worth even if I never sell one book. My writing is for me first because I have to get these words out of my head.

    • Andi

      Yes, Stephanie. Keep writing. No matter what. It might sell, but it might not. What matters, as my friend Laraine says, is the practice of writing.

  • Brian

    Well put.

    And now I need to figure out a way to casually drop “tough as a wombat’s ass” into conversation.

    • Andi

      If you find a way to use that phrase commonly, please let me know, Brian.