I read an interesting story today over on my Yahoo news page regarding the most satisfying jobs. I wasn't surprised to find my husband's job, firefighting (with 80% reporting they are"very satisfied"), near the top of the list, nor was I surprised to see my earlier career, teaching (69% chose "very satisfied"). In spite of both its frustrations and the less-than-stellar pay, my years in the classroom brought me a great deal of joy since every day, I could see the evidence that my hard work had an impact.

What surprised me was that authors were so high up the list, with 74% reporting they are "very satisfied" with their careers. Maybe I was surprised because authors I know gripe a lot about their unpredictable income and their lack of control over so many components of success, from market trends (and publishers who never met a bandwagon they didn't want to collapse beneath their collective weight) to cover art to the replacement of their brilliant, original titles (at least the authors see it that way) with dorkified titles inspired by focus groups clearly composed of Jerry Springer rejects (Pregnant by the Boss, Blood-Dripping Blades of Death, I Married My Mama's Baby-Daddy).

So what brings authors so much joy? Other than the chance to work in their PJs (as I am now) and spend days playing in worlds of their own choosing (and these are pretty cool perks)? I would have to say that for me it's readers, or specifically, that small, but critical percentage of readers who take the time to let us know they have connected with our stories. Every writer I know loves hearing from them, from the briefest e-mails to the longest letters to those devoted souls who make the effort to come to our booksignings to let us know what our books have meant to them. There is something so rewarding about casting one's words out into the void, like bottled notes tossed into a vast ocean, and having a response float back. A reader who laughed at our jokes (which is more than I get from my teenager). Another who was moved to tears. Yet another who lets me know my words carried her through a particularly-rough time of her life. Some speak of our characters as if they are real people -- those same characters we breathed life into through our imaginations and hard work.

In my opinion, the whole point of pursuing publication is the chance of achieving a meaningful connection with other people. Readers like ourselves, whose pleasure in our work validates that way we see the world and keeps an otherwise-lonely profession rooted in humanity.

So what satisfies you most about writing? Which parts keep you pushing past the frustration of rejection and help you keep the dream alive?


Jessica Trapp said…
I love fans (Oh, how I love fans!) but I think what satisfies me most about writing is the writing itself. I love the rhythm of the words and the hypnosis of fitting a story together. I've always connected deeply with books.
You're definitely right about the process itself being the thing that keeps one going day-to-day. Lately, me characters keep tapping me on the shoulder to wake me up each morning.

Or is that my deadline calling?

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