• 5 Reasons for Publishing Your Writing

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 50 comments

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    Discussion questions: What are some of the factors that motivate you toward publishing your writing?


    In a new piece about process vs. product over at Writers Helping Writers I mention that I often ask new coaching clients two questions: Why do you want to write and why do you want to publish. (If you have some spare time today, head over there and let ’em see how WriteByNighters dig deep in our discussions!)

    Most of what I write about in this space involves process, because I’ve never been terribly interested in publishing my writing but I *love*, and am fascinated with, the writing process.

    But publication has been on my mind lately, and I know it’s a constant consideration for many of you. So this week, I want to take a look at a few common reasons writers give for publishing their writing; I’ll explore how I feel about those reasons, but mostly I want to know how *you* feel about them.


    1. “I want to hold tangible evidence of all the hard work I’ve done.”

    I can get behind this one for sure. Just last night I was talking to a writer about the pros and cons of publishing your writing in print versus online. I mentioned that some of my earliest publication credits came from Pleiades, a lit journal in Missouri. I wrote five or six book reviews for them ten or so years ago, but no evidence exists online. It’s *almost* as if it never happened.

    But! On my bookshelf are these fat, beautiful bound journals with my name inside. I can touch them, flip through them. I can see my byline in print, on paper. I can hold them to my nose and smell my words.

    The last time I tried that with my computer I got some strange looks on the subway.

    Though publishing online offers fulfilling evidence, too. It’s just more like “I want to see tangible evidence of all the hard work I’ve done.” In general, online writing is easier to find, is more widely available, and has longer staying power.

    Either way, print or online, we writers can draw great validation from having our work available for others to read.

    Your turn: Is holding or seeing tangible evidence of your writing process a motivating factor for you? How do you feel when you hold a copy of a book with your name on the cover or a publication with your byline inside, or when you click a link to a webpage showing your work to the world?


    2. “My story will help people.”

    Helping readers can be an excellent motivator. I’m almost always working in coaching with at least one writer whose goal is to impart some kind of wisdom, or to help the reader through a difficult time by detailing how he or she got through a similar difficult time.

    Many “My story will help people” writers work directly in self-help, while many others are writing a memoir. Like I was. And helping people is what kept me going through some difficult phases of the project. It wasn’t enough to carry me through all the way to the end, but it got me much further than I would’ve gotten otherwise.

    Your turnIs helping the reader a motivating factor for you? In what way(s) do you want to help people with your writing? Has a writer ever helped you in any significant way with his/her words?


    3. “I want to make money, quit my day job, become a full-time writer.”

    I remember my first writing paychecks. The first came from the Iowa Review for a review, and the second came two days later from Gulf Coast for another review. I took photos of the checks, showed those photos to lots of people who cared not a whit. The total amount was just enough for a tame night on the town, but the feeling stays with me. Someone valued my words not just enough to publish them but to give me money for them too! I felt like a real writer. Validated.

    Most of us are aware that quitting our day job and becoming full-time writers is something of a longshot. But longshots can win races. Otherwise they’d be called no-shots. The goal of making money and being a full-time writer is the very thing that has led many writers to make money and become full-time writers.

    Your turn: Is financial compensation and the idea of a career change a motivating factor for you? Do you recall how you felt the first time you were paid for your words? If that hasn’t happened yet, how will you celebrate when it does?


    4. “I want a sense of accomplishment, to have achieved my goal, nailed my personal challenge.”

    Some writers want to publish a book just to prove to themselves that they can. It’s similar to the reason someone might give for climbing a mountain (“Because it’s there”) or completing a marathon (“Just to see if I can do it”). All three require mental and physical stamina.

    And sometimes that determination, and the unwillingness to let your own self down, is enough to guide us through the rough spots. Some writers (and people) thrive on being accountable to others; some thrive on being accountable only to themselves.

    Your turn: Are you driven by proving to yourself that you can publish your writing? Where do you think that personal challenge comes from? How does it keep you going through the dark times?


    5. “I want the acclaim of good reviews/ratings, awards, etc.; I want to be invited to read my work at bookstores and festivals, and sign copies of my book for my fans afterwards.”

    Ah, external validation. So many of us crave it so hard. I still feel a tingle whenever someone says, “Hey, I liked that thing you wrote.” Outwardly, of course, I wave it off and say, “Oh, that old thing?”

    Sure, we want people to read the writing we poured so much of ourselves into, but more than that, we want people to like it.

    Your turn: How much does the idea of external validation drive you? To hear from readers that they like your work; to read your positive reviews, to revel in five-star ratings? Let’s talk about it below!


    david blog


    WriteByNight writing coach and co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.


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    Motivations for publishing are probably different between the writer who is doing art and the writer who is making a living. For me it is the former (I have always been able to garner attention via creative work, but making money, at anything, was a matter of luck).  The drive for validation among artists is strong, and I imagine it has been since people were painting on cave walls. I’m no different but I try to put the desire in perspective and not get lost in self-absorption. Hence: 1. Yes, after years of working on a novel, it is good… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer

    Motivations for publishing…I write. I publish. I repeat. Sure, it’s nice ot have a book in your hand, but I find the act of sharing a story fun and don’t get all bent out of shape if it doesn’t sell a lot or even if it’s printed. I’ll worry about selling when I finally get it so I’ve got that really, really good story written. Until then, it’s called practice and I’ll just see where it goes. Motivation to publish…because I can.

    John Liebling

    My motivation years ago was just for me. Can I actually create characters? Can I create a story? Can I edit that story? Can I continue to improve? Can I create a story a publisher would be interested in, after all my hard work…Yes I’d like to share that story. My current novel is an origin story not just for all the characters I’ve created but the reality the inhabit. And that reality can be manipulated and changed by Malevolent Time…turning each character into something different, and allowing for future books…In regards to the future I would like my characters… Read more »

    John Liebling

    I am working on though slower than I’d like…Perhaps by end of June or start of July…unless my progress picks up…Because of covid and locked in for a full year…it has become much more difficult to get to the pages I need to get too…

    John Liebling

    People need people. Depression is difficult to over come. We live in a technological new world…we can exist… NOT LIVE…Isolating…meal delivered, entertainment by way of music and movies, on our computers, TV, or phones. We can binge years and years of TV series. We are creating new unhealthy routines. My biggest problem, and this happened for the first time in over 6 years working on my novel. In the past taking a three week or three month break from editing…I would easily get back in the flow, and continue working every day… Over the last six months its hit and… Read more »


    I’m exactly where you’re at. I want to finish my first one too, and I have plans to dedicate my next one to address social injustice and in terms of what’s become a frequently used phrase, to speak truth to power.
    Keep working!


    First one is the one that could be the only one–To Kill a Mockingbird. Next, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Gideon’s Trumpet, the true story of the first guy who changed the law requiring courts to appoint counsel to defendants who can’t afford it. Fourth, you give me an excellent question to think about some more.Oh, I have the autobiography of Mayor Macswiney (McSweeney) who underwent a hunger strike in opposition to the English in Ireland, as well as Gandhi’s autobiography. I would sure love recommendations about middle grade and YA novels about children who spoke truth to… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It series (Life As We Knew It, The Dead and the Gone, The World We Live In, and The Shadow of the Moon) comes to mind. Also, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games series (The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay). Both series are YA. Also YA, Kimberly Jones’s and Gilly Segal’s I’m Not Dying With You Tonight. For nonfiction where a child speaks to power directly, Greta Thunberg’s No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference. Not YA, but I found this memoir inspiring, from a woman on… Read more »


    Thank you, Elissa. I’ll look into those. I may go for the Greta first. I love her

    Elissa Malcohn

    Long post ahead. Some decades ago I read (or maybe heard) an author, I forget who, who compared what he did to a toddler making and showing off mud pies. I can relate to that. These days I’m into experimenting with my writing for experimentation’s sake, rather than into publishing. But I actively submitted my work for 40+ years. My first magazine appearance was in 1977 and won a small press award. My most recent appearance was in 2012, including a nominee for another award. My motivations have changed over the decades. My characters and their stories came to me first; submitting them was like wanting… Read more »


    That collage is wonderful. You are so productive. Where does the energy come from?

    Elissa Malcohn

    Thanks! :-) I have no idea where the energy comes from. Art saved my creative sanity when I was working steady multiple shifts and didn’t have the brain cells to write; ditto for my chemo days. I’m currently pulling all-nighters (or near to) and napping during the day on a current job. A research team is cranking out drafts that I edit while they sleep. It’s the kind of tight deadline work that makes me both nostalgic (I pulled the first of many all-nighters at a former employer a month after my hire) and wired (“Be wewy, wewy quiet … I’m hunting wun-on sentences… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    I’m not ruling out submitting/publishing again by any means; my priorities are just different these days. I’ve got a couple of recent short pieces that might find a home somewhere, but I’m not motivated right now to research the markets. The pieces were fun to write, but they don’t fall into that urgent category of “Go forth into the world, fruit of my mental loins and my heart ripped out, and godspeed!”

    T Day

    Tough question and one I’ve been stuck answering for about 5-6 years. There was a time when I was writing magazine articles 3-4x a month while managing a day job and engineering career. Now, I’m retired and I have the time to work on stories that are 20-30 years “in process” and I don’t. I still have ideas for solving the problems in these stories, I just don’t work on them. I guess I need an answer to your question before I know if I have a reason for publication or writing.

    david lemke

    Those five reasons all ring true, but their is another; purpose. Purpose can change over time. Your first purpose in life may be “Be the good student, learn all you can, get good grades and graduate. At that time, mine was for me to learn what I was interested in, but I didn’t really care what my grades were. Later many of us had the goal to support our family, or protect the kids, etc.. For me l learned my purpose was to be a healer; I learned healing technics, Reiki, Qigong, Energy work, meditation and I discovered I was… Read more »

    david lemke

    Still irregular but coming back. Two new stories, one based on a dream. Still working on the old ones from time to time. Got my first shot Thursday.

    david lemke

    Thank you. One reason no one listed was legacy, which was an important one. “If I can write stories and novels, get published and maybe make a little money at it, than you, my children and grandchildren and beyond, than you can too.”

    David Duhr

    Oh yeah, good call. Legacy. Posterity, even. To leave a mark on the culture that will outlast you.


    Under the category of helping people, I believe we are given gifts and have the responsibility to use them for the benefit of the world. We all have a job that aids in survival. As writers, whether journalists or artists, our job is to inform, entertain, inspire, educate, report, but it is also to give form and expression to the collective consciousness, even the collective unconscious, to give shape to desire, emotion, dreams, experience, memory; to create a stage or canvas or story or platform for the human spirit, to attempt to express what hasn’t yet found expression, to provide… Read more »

    david lemke

    That is certainly a worth while purpose. Go for it with gusto, my spirit guides say “Yes.”


    Thank you, guides! My spirit guides are currently busy with another matter, but I hadn’t thought about consulting them about this.


    PS. I also wanted to say that publishing does not necessarily have to be large scale, and sharing one’s gift can be done even to help only one person One day I was out walking and I found on the ground a handmade book about basket weaving and lessons from it that applied to life It was a sweet little book, and at the end the author said she had just made some copies and was scattering them about town for people to find and that was her published work. So I left the book where I found it so… Read more »


    yes, she did, and I didn’t write it down, but I was trying to go with what felt like her MO–just set it free and let her words fall where they may. I did make a few notes and took down one quote and passed the quote along to someone who really benefitted from it. In fact I did think about it a while before I gave it back to the world. I was going to keep it at first.


    Yes, in Lake Park while I was walking my dog. it was actually on the grass and kinda muddy but legible.

    Elissa Malcohn

    Years ago I’d heard of a project wherein people shared journal notebooks. One got onto a list, was mailed a notebook to write in, then mailed the journal to the next person on the list. I forget what it was called. I think several books were making the rounds. I’d also heard of journal notebooks being left out in the open for people to add to, then leave behind for the next person.

    I haven’t yet found those particular projects online, but I’ve found similar ones: The Strangers Project (strangersproject dot com) and Sharing Smiles Journal (sharingsmilesjournal dot com).


    I fall into the “can I do it?” category. I have written short stories and poems for quite a few years and started wondering if I could write a whole book. I made a couple of attempts but set them aside as ‘learning curve’. I also don’t share easily. Thank you for starting the writing groups David. Working with Susan, Catherine, and Kevin has helped a lot with sharing and learning more about writing in general. I still have a ways to go. I finally met a couple of characters that I am really enjoying getting to know. They have… Read more »


    Yes, you can!

    Jerry Schwartz

    One of the members of a writers group I’m in wrote a short story which, among other things, opens with this subject: “I don’t know about anyone else here today, but my validation as a writer will come only with the publication of my work,” she said, closing the laptop before her. I let this pronouncement hover, and then settle in, over the classroom, waiting to gauge its effect on the dozen other students slumped over our discussion table. When the only responses were hollow stares and ponytail twisting, I knew it was my turn to speak. “Thanks, Anne Marie,… Read more »

    Jerry Schwartz

    The format of this particular group doesn’t allow for group discussion. It’s strictly submit and critique. I intend to use that excerpt as a launchpad for next month’s discussion in a different group that is nothing but discussion. There is some overlap between the two groups. From her point of view, the class is an investment, and she’s looking for a good return on her investment. But that leaves us with the question of why she chooses to write in the first place? Statistically, it’s not the best way to make a pile of money. In the story, she turns… Read more »

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