Considering the “Why”

Seeing things… In a whole new light!

“You’re an author. So what do you write?

How many times have you heard that question? The question is worthy of consideration because authors often are defined by what they write. But why is it that, when there are literally thousands of multiple authors writing on the same general subjects, that only a few are enormously successful, while others remain frustrated, struggling in obscurity. Well, in reality it is not so important what writers write—as hard as it may be for some writers to believe. Take a subject, stand it on its head, or its ear, and chances are someone has already done the same take, or something similar. There is nothing new under the sun.

So if it is not the what, then perhaps it is the how. Does technique matter? Do life experience and an idiosyncratic, methodical approach to the process matter? Of course they do! Yet, technique involves more than mere research, discipline and creativity. It involves more than focus groups, colleague critique sessions or an experienced editor. In fact, the process carries over to activities and choices authors make after the book is complete.

Will you self-publish? Will you opt for Digital Printing as opposed to offset printing? How will you determine the price and format? Will you elect to have a traditional publisher produce your book? Will a publisher even be interested in you work? How many formats and distribution channels will you pursue? Is there a marketing campaign in place?

The questions above are a continuation of the how, and many authors have mastered this aspect to a high degree of efficiency, cranking out book after book with a seeming sense of ease, but there are many prodigious authors (we’ve all met them) who create and/or publish volumes of work, and still struggle to find an interested and appreciative audience. Thus “the how” is important, but it is not the essential factor that distinguishes an individual from the crowd.

Many writers, when considering literary success, have been taught to work from a What—How—Why model, as opposed to a Why—How—What approach. Basically, these authors pitch, or begin selling (to an audience or publisher) with,

I have just written this great manuscript about this famous lawmaker who cheats on his wife and who lies to constituents. While writing it, I went to Washington DC to interview seven real-live corrupt politicians who tell me they will even endorse me! Wanna buy my book?

This manuscript could become a viable book, but it probably would not impress an audience enough to make it a well sought-after work or a bestseller. Why? Because we have already seen the same What and How, played out over and over in books, television and film for decades. Authors, if you think you can find success by doing the What and the How that has worked for other authors, then you are entirely missing the point. If you do your research, you will discover that what has made the most prominent and adulated writers unique… is the Why.

So the better question for you is Why do you write? What is your purpose? What is your cause? What are your beliefs? In the spirit of motivational speaker, Simon Sinek

Inspired writers start with what they believe. People don’t buy what you write—they buy “why” you wrote it. Thus the goal is to write for people who believe what you believe. If you write about what you believe, about what you feel strongly about, you will attract those who believe what you believe, and doing so, you will earn singular success.

If you truly want to be a successful writer, take a look at the video above to consider the words of Simon Sinek, a gifted speaker in the TED series. And after you have finished, please take the effort to share your thoughts about this post. Why do you write? What is your true motivation? How does what you believe affect your work? Do you find that your favorite authors tend to believe what you believe? After watching the video, how will you change change your approach in future writing projects?

We look forward to reading your comments! Better yet, use the space in the box below to create your own post, describing in specific detail why you write and how your beliefs affect what you write.

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