Writers Don’t Write to Get Published

Many writers write for the wrong reasons — for accolades or awards — and they end up sorely disappointed when their art doesn’t “succeed.”

Writers Don't Write to Get Published

What I think you should do instead is this: stop writing to get published, and start writing because you love it. Here’s a little manifesto I wrote for you:

The Writer’s Manifesto

Real writers don’t write to get published. They write just to write.

Real writers don’t write for recognition or fame or notoriety. They write, because they simply cannot not write. By their gifts and a higher calling, they are compelled to create.

Real writers wake up every morning with something to say. And they thank the heavens for an opportunity to do so.

Real writers do not begin the day with aspirations of seeing their words in print; they simply show up, available to be used as a mouthpiece.

Real writers do not need audience or inspiration; they have the Muse.

Writing as an incarnational act

I don’t think I’ll ever approach writing the same way again after reading Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking On Water. She helped me understand that writing (or any creative effort) is what she calls an “incarnational activity.”

When you write, I believe you embody a part of the spirit of God the Creator. It is a sacred act, to create — not a means to an end, but the end itself.

This means that the whole point of writing is, well, to write. It sounds redundant, but it isn’t. By this rationale, to write with the goal of getting published for the sake of being famous is selfish, if not downright blasphemous.

Writing for the wrong reasons

Let’s face it: we all have some mixed motives for wanting our content to be read by the masses. We put such hard work into what we do, it’s tempting to want a little recognition. Isn’t it?

So we write, because we enjoy it but also because we want to be recognized and celebrated. This is a natural feeling, but also a self-destructive one.

We begin to focus on the audience more than the act of creating, and ultimately, our art suffers. We grow self-conscious and worrisome about how a certain word or phrase will be perceived. It becomes less about the art and more about how much other people like us.

If you can’t write and experience fulfillment through the sheer act of creating, you’d better give up now. You’re probably not writing for the right reasons, and you can’t expect to get much longevity out of it that way.

Must love… writing

Any passion you practice must be sustainable. And when you do something primarily for the acclaim of others, it hardly ever lasts.

If you cannot learn to love writing, consider moving on to another hobby. This one is not for you, not as a serious vocation, anyway.

You may still occasionally write this or that, but if all you want is to get published, then hire a ghost writer. Or learn how to enjoy writing for what it is — an arduous and sometimes tedious process of continually dying to yourself and being reborn. It is painful and glorious all at the same time and not to be taken lightly.

Writing for the right reasons

Please do not write to get published.

Write because you’ve been given a voice and something to say.

Write because you simply must do so.

Write because someone else will not.

The paradox is that if you write for these reasons and with daily discipline, you just might get published some day. In the mean time, write because you love it.

Want to read more? Check out the eBook that this post inspired: Get a Free Copy of The Writer’s Manifesto!

How have you struggled with mixed motives in your own creative work? Share in the comments.

141 thoughts on “Writers Don’t Write to Get Published

  1. I’m not sure I entirely agree with Madeleine L’Engle’s statement. I believe writers write to communicate. If it’s devotional, you’re attempting to communicate with your creator/spirit/god/universe. It could be you’re trying to communicate with the masses, or just yourself. I find keeping a journal me keep in touch with me. My stories, in turn, are attempts at communicating with others.
    Bear in mind that just because you are attempting to communicate that anyone will or has to listen.
    Thanks for getting me thinking today.

  2. I’m in the middle of Walking on Water right now. Ok. Actually, I’m in the first quarter. But I’m strolling, not sprinting. I’m also strolling through Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. The first is simply brilliant–he asks the same question as you. I’m also strolling through Emily Dickinson’s poetry, in scope largely unknown until after her death. I’m sure Rilke would qualify her as one who couldn’t live without creating.

    And these writers legitimize the deep desire to create for the sake of creating. I’m learning that no song on the radio, or writing contract, or publishing deal validates who I am as a songwriter. It’s the innate and insatiable need to write songs. That alone makes me a writer.

  3. Absolutely brilliant, Jeff!

    This can often become a creative behemoth for writers, or any kind of artist.
    To what extent do you create for yourself, and to what extent for others? Interestingly, this topic has come up three or four times already within the community that I regularly read, with both views bobbing to the surface.
    I am with you on this one all the way! If you don’t love writing unto itself, no matter how arduous it gets, you will not be able to sustain it as a career.
    I believe the phrase is, “Just write”.
    It reminds me of Matt McConaughey in “We Are Marshall” – we don’t play the game to win or to be the best, but simply to play it.

    Thanks, Jeff!


  4. “Or, learn how to enjoy writing for what it is — an arduous and sometimes tedious process of dying to yourself and being reborn. It is painful and glorious all at the same time and to not to be taken lightly in the least.”

    Love it!

  5. That may be true if you are writing a novel. I’ve written lots of scientific articles, lectures, presentations, grant proposals, evaluation reports, you name it. Some of it I wrote because I had something to say. Some of it I wrote because I was a widow with three small children who needed to it and writing paid the bills.

    Now that the kids have grown, I have the luxury of only writing about what interests me, but even then, I think to quote Jack London, you can”t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club

    1. Thanks for the comment. I love that London quote. Well said!

      Let me rephrase: Writers aren’t writers merely because they’re published. They’re writers because they write. Getting published is gravy.

  6. This is a solid gut check, Jeff. I totally agree. We simply need to show up and share the vision that God has blessed us with. When we write those words, we plant seeds in the hearts and minds of our readers. He is faithful to water those seeds.

    And you’re right, you never know where He’ll take it from there. Keep fighting the good fight, brother. I love your stuff.

  7. This was Godsend. I had this epiphany this past week! I may never have a huge blog following, but I write because I have a need to write. Thank you!

    Russ Petcoff

  8. Nice post! When I finally started writing again, I wrote a post about creating joy. Writing brings me so much joy. I just had to get over the fact that I wont do it perfectly. I can’t not write nowadays. I was in my car on they way to work this morning and had to find a napkin while a stop light just so I could write a thought down. I love it.

    1. writting is actually theraputic for yourself and helps you. to reflect and or captur and detaiked moment weather it was some yrs ago or a few split sec. etc.

  9. Wrote a blog titled “If a writer writes and there’s no one to read it, is he a writer?” that this blog inspired. Thank you for the inspiration.

  10. I believe100% that anything a person or person’s does may or may not come directly from passion. but, perhaps by trying to experience something they would lije to touch up on in hopes for it to grow and become passion. if, the fail/succeed at least they would know they’rv done something about what didn’t use to be.make sence? having a passion means it coming naturaly 7to you easy whereas someone doing something for the sake of recoginition would be so hard and fustrafustrating for that person or person’s to try and acomplish.

  11. I write because I love to write and I don’t usually care if no one visits my blog and like my post (sometimes it feels nice someone say they like what they read) but that doesn’t stop me from writing every single day.

    I write because I know that I have a voice, I want to share my story or my rambling thoughts, and at the back of my head I know that somehow I could possibly touch someone in a good way.

  12. I totally agree!!!!!!!  Writers write because they love writing and are compelled to write… period!!!  Even in grad school when I “had” to write, I wrote with passion and made any “academic” subject that I had to write about a challenge to creative writing (research-based, of course).  I remember once writing a paper in my doctoral studies (no I didn’t finish my doctorate due to finances) for a professor who had a decided bent towards male leadership and used texts that slanted leadership theory towards his own opinions (that men are better leaders).  Well, it presented a great challenge to me to show him the other side, using the very texts he used to show that his “men are better leaders” theory that he promoted also showed that women make great leaders, too.  I just wanted to open him up to another way of thinking and not to be so closed minded about women in leadership roles.  I don’t know if it worked (we never discussed my paper) but he gave me a great grade, which said some pretty good things about him being open enough to at least consider what I wrote (and backed up with research).  So, even “academic” writing can be fun!!!  –Sara at sarasmusings.wordpress.com

  13. This is a timely read for me.  I have been wrapped inside myself trying to figure out ways to write about things that are nagging at me, yet don’t feel I can write for fear of hurting people I love.  It’s been completely stifling my creative process and just last week, I decided to just, let, go.  Writing, and worrying about how it will resonate with readers has been my greatest challenge.  A challenge I hope I’ll break free from very soon.

    So, in a roundabout way, this leads me to agree with what you are saying.  Write to write.  Write for you.  Nobody else.  That’s the stuff people want to read anyway, isn’t it?  Readers can sense what is authentic, I think.

  14. Hi, Jeff. Thanks for sharing this with is. I had thought of it before and now, I am quiet sure enough that all I want is to write no matter what happened, and I did not want anything else in return like awards or anything. All I now is that I had truly started to love writing since last year.

  15. This post really made me step back, and assess why I write. 

    I don’t think it is a bad thing to want to be published. I think the problem is when this is the sole reason for writing. 

  16. I have a novel to start, first post to publish on my new blog, a script to write…

    But I got stuck somewhere in the process and nothing is done yet. I lack of motivation, probably I fear of failing to write good materials.

    Until I stumbled on your blog. You shed some light in my head, just what I need right now.

    So I’m going to go and right my blog, finish my script and my novel.

    Thank you for inspiring people like me. Looking forward to buy your book.

  17. Thank you so so much for your words! I’ve recently started a blog (https://ramblebamblebambie.wordpress.com/) as I’ve been wanting to write for the sake of writing for a long time now… this post has given me the motivation to keep it up now that I’ve finally begun! Your words ring so so true for me, they’ve made me remember why I wanted to start filling up blank pages with my ideas in the first place. Thank you!

  18. Hmmm… this is interesting.  I’m always a little bit fearful of people reading my posts, especially people I know.  I’m aware that they do, but at the same time, with a blog written in my dining room its easy to pretend they dont.  So when a discussion starts up on one of them, its kind of easy to distance “me” from it.

    I’ve just been asked to contribute a chapter to a book together with some pretty high profile people and am scared out of my tiny mind.  Its – like – “real”, and printed and people with read with my name there.  Scary stuff.  Makes it much more difficult to write when you think people will read it, rather than just writing because you want to and pretending that nobody ever will.

  19. For the longest time, my ultimate goal was get published. Writing for publicity eventually  sucked the life out of my writing, and I gave it up. I’ve recently come back into the fold… you’re right, one of the marks of a writer is that they can’t not write. We can’t not write. I’m a writer! It feels so good to say it! 🙂

  20. This is an amazing post. I honestly love writing and it’s so much fun. I confess that I began with the attitude of getting something out there and therefore writing for the sake of it. Now I write because it is a necessity, most importantly, my necessity. I write because I can. I write because I love it. I write because it’s therapeutic. I write because that’s yet another opportunity to encourage someone else. 
    Thank you once again for this very inspirational, revitilizing and rejuvenating post.

  21. I have to disagree with you on this area, Jeff. I don’t know if I can believe writers can write without the desire of getting published. I certainly don’t agree to write for the sake of being published is blasphemous, but I know from reading your article the bigger picture you got across.

    Here’s my take for wanting to be published. I know people may consider this vain, but I liken my desire for the same reason Edward Woodward’s character in the movie ‘Breaker Morant’ described on the day of his execution. He spent the night writing poems and on the morning he was to stand before a firing squad he handed his poems to his lawyer and said, “See that these are published, please. We poets do crave immortality.”

    Is that blasphemous? Is that vain? To people who don’t write the answer is yes. To writers it’s not. I’ve been writing since I was fourteen years old. I’ve got eight manuscripts I’m working on having published. I was inspired to be a writer by T.E. Lawrence, more famously known as Lawrence of Arabia. I was amazed how someone could write about their experiences and wanted to try my own hand at writing, and I LOVED IT! Still do.

    But as I push 50 years of age I realize time is not on our side.  I not only want to get published, but I want people to read my books and tell me what they think. After years of receiving rejection letters from literary agents and publishers (I still have them to prove to myself at least I was trying), I’m now at the stage where I write to be published.

    But don’t judge me too soon. You are yourself a published author and winner of 2012 Best Blogger. By the way, congratulations! You are very good! Although you’re not saying people who write to be published are wrong, but rather missing out on the fun of writing (Sorry if I misunderstood you. This was merely my take on your article), at some point every writer wants to be published, has to and NEEDS to be published same as an artist needs to display their work in a gallery for people to see.

    I remember times walking in a bookstore and feeling frustrated my books weren’t on the shelf. And when someone asked me if I wanted my books to be made into a movie, I lied and said, “No.” I was afraid of being seen as vain. It was another author who said, “I don’t know any writer who doesn’t envision their books made into a movie.”

    I think I reached the point where I could not write simply to write when I learned how much time this took me away from family and friends. Writing does after all take time and I wanted to be published to show this sacrifice of time away from people close to me was worth something in the long run. And when I did get published I fell in love with writing all over again.

    Got my second book released this past November, and that was a whole new feeling for me, too. In some ways, getting my second book published was better than the first. I didn’t want to be seen as a one-book author. I want people to know I’m serious about writing and in the game for the long run.

    Your article is good and I do understand your point about writing for the love of it and your work will show. There’s simply some points I can’t agree with. But then if everyone did you’d need to jumpstart your work with booster shots, right?

    As my good friend and author Matt Schott says, ‘Keep on writing!’

    David Lucero


    1. I find the people who write and keep writing are the people who do it for a lot of reasons. It’s those who just have one motivation (like the love of it) that quit. No matter what an author’s objective is, it wears thin after a while. I start writing a book because it’s fun! And then thirty pages later it isn’t. But I keep writing because I have something to say to the world! Then someone cuts me off in traffic and the world can go screw itself. Then I keep writing for respect! Then I read a disparaging comment about a favorite author of mine. So then I keep writing because I hate my day job! Then I get five bucks for a story that took two months. Then I keep writing because it’s fun!

      … And so on and so forth.

    2. Thank you so much David for sharing with us all such a helpful and inspiring comment. You and Jeff are both amazing writers. I love that you’re so refreshingly honest! I will check out your website. Have a great day, and continue Being authentic! ^_^

    3. That’s fair. I think getting published is great — and admirable. But I also know, as a published author, it’s not enough. Attention isn’t enough to sustain my writing. I must do it for another reason.

      1. True. I want to be remembered for this part of me when I’m long gone, much in the way I remember my favorite writers who have left us. I have long since admired artists, musicians, singers, debaters and the like. This is my contribution to the same field. I believe my stories hold a place like fellow writers, and to write provides me with a sense of self-fulfillment I only feel when I write. To be published is the recognition I followed through with what I am meant to do and be.

    4. David,

      I am also pushing 50. At our age we start thinking about how we will be remembered. I write to share my experience with others and hopefully to make a difference. My motives for writing in my 20s and 30s were totally different

      1. Yes, I want to be remembered for my ability to write and entertain readers with enjoyable stories, much in the way I admire my favorite authors. It’s a great feeling to have someone contact you and say how much they admired your book. Makes writing all the more worth it.

  22. Thank you again Jeff for sharing with us all such wonderful writing. I understand where you’re coming from, and I also love David Lucero’s comment.

  23. Part II–my other 2 cents: Jeff, I agree with most of this post; however, I don’t agree with the statement, “By this rationale, to write with the goal of getting published for the sake of being famous is selfish, if not downright blasphemous” because I believe that a person (who doesn’t unconditionally love oneself) who solely wants to be famous for “selfish” reasons (i.e., just to be recognized, accepted and admired by others) isn’t “blasphemous,” but just suffering from his/her own lack of self-esteem and self-love. When we choose to see through the eyes of God, we can better understand, empathize with, have compassion for, forgive, accept, embrace, and even unconditionally love those who speak or act from a fear-based belief system. So they’re not showing a lack of reverence for God, but rather, struggling to get to God/Unconditional Love. We can help others to return to God’s love by Being Love. When one writes from a place of love, then (like you mentioned) it would be no surprise if one’s work spreads (via publishing) to others in order to help and uplift self and humanity. However, if one writes from a place of fear (i.e., fear of not being accepted by society, which ultimately stems from not fully accepting oneself), and only desires fame, then chances are, he/she will probably not attain that fame; and if they happen to…it will only last for a short time.

    1. Thank you, BobbieJoD, for your compliment. Your comment is also very good. (I apologize if this is a duplicate message. I was having trouble online at work during lunch and want to be sure and thank you) Keep on writing! David

  24. I write to write. I’ve all but quit trying to get my writing seen and recognized. It will do that on its own at some point. Heck, it already has among a small group of people. Perhaps the ones who can gain from reading what I write will be drawn to it.

  25. “If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy. If you write for men–you may make some money and you may give someone a little joy and you may make a noise in the world, for a little while. If you write for yourself, you can read what you yourself have written and after ten minutes you will be so disgusted that you will wish that you were dead.”

    Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

    Thanks, Jeff. 🙂

  26. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate this post. Best advice on writing I ever received was “If you’re writing for money, you’re writing for the wrong reason.” That came from my husband.

    Thanks for posting this excerpt.

  27. Not all writers who want to be published crave fame. They simply want people to read their words, appreciate their ideas and be inspired by them. “Blasphemous” is a very strong word and I don’t think it applies to writing for publication.

  28. Thanks for the bit of encouragement today Jeff! I have been sitting on some ideas for a few years and struggle with motivation or desire to write when I think of the odds of it actually getting published.

    Thank you for reminding me that I need to right, because I can! Blessings to you & happy writing!

  29. What I love most about this idea is that it’s true for any profession.
    Imagine if everyone worked for the joy of working in their prospective fields without the selfish drive for recognition. I believe recognition will follow hard work and that hard work is a habit of those doing what they love and believe they were called to do. It starts with WHY.
    Thanks, Jeff!

  30. Well this is sure an interesting read today. I’m currently doing your 31 day challenge and frankly, I’ve only posted two of the writings to my blog. I am so very new to calling myself a writer (although it has lurked in my heart for years) and my writings this month have been very personal. They have also been so very therapeutic. Oh my gosh! My journal time with Lord has for years been a matter of writing letters in longhand to God but the writing I am doing in this challenge has been the same yet different. For one, I am typing instead of longhand and also I am just writing whatever comes to my mind. I may start on one topic or thought and morph into something else entirely. It’s been more a streams of consciousness approach rather than writing to specific person (God). It’s certainly nothing for publishing! While I would like to write something worthy of publishing I don’t really believe it’s something I can force. Perhaps there are people who can force such a thing but I cannot do so. If I even think about focusing on being published my words shut down. Perhaps that is because I am new to this or perhaps it is because I am in a place of needing to write for therapy. This challenge has given me permission to make time in my day for writing. That alone is a new experience for me. And it’s been very good.

  31. Real writers write for a purpose beyond themselves. Maybe they want to help people, maybe they want to change the world, or maybe they just want to get paid and support their families. Whatever the motivation, the purpose for writing cannot be fulfilled without publication.

    If I want to help people through my writing, I need to think about what those people need to hear in order to help them. I need to focus on the audience’s needs instead of my own, and I need to get my work published. Otherwise, it will help no one.

    If I have a message to share that could change the world, I need to get the word out. I can write beautifully, passionately, and convincingly, but if my writing is never published, it will not make a difference to a single person.

    Even striving to win awards may not have anything at all to do with vanity. If I win an award for my writing, more people will read and benefit from what I have written.

    I get what you are saying about having a voice, but there is more than one reason to write. I am not any less a “real writer” because I write for a different reason than you do.

    P.S. There is one line in your manifesto that seems blasphemous to me, but I know you are a Christian, so I doubt that you realize what you are really saying. It is this line: “Real writers do not need audience or inspiration; they have the Muse.” If all creation is a sacred act inspired by God, why are you attributing it to a group of Greek goddesses?

    1. This is a good point. I feel very confused about Jeff’s message. I feel like Jeff is coming from a very religious place but afraid to say what he really believes as not to lose his large secular following. The reference to Blasphemy and the Muse in one post is really a humorous contradiction.

  32. For me writing is about being a good steward of what God has give me, for His glory and the benefit of others. It’s not about being comfortable and on only doing the things I’m good at; in many ways and very often, writing is painful. But He has given me a voice, a platform, and an amazing message. That, I believe, is worth writing about.

  33. I’m glad someone agrees… Everyone else thinks I’m wasting my time. I’ve got a lot to say about nothing–even if I’m the only one reading it. 😉

  34. When I was kid in school, I loved to write. I lived in an abusive isolated home environment. The things I wrote for no one else to see helped me vent. The things I wrote and turned in for school work were sometimes silly and sometimes dark. But, I had a teacher in the 6th grade who always selected my stories to read before the class and privately told me I should consider writing as a career. I was shocked and thrilled. For a kid with low self esteem and no recognition from anyone (unless it was to hurt me), I coudn’t believe his words. But, I knew I shouldn’t “consider” being a write. I WAS a writer. Then, in high school I had a teacher in advanced English whom I much admired. When she went around the room and asked about career choices we had in mind, I of course said writer. I thought she would be pleased. Unfortunately, she told me: “Hmm….that’s a good way to go hungry!” I was embarrassed and crushed. Indeed I thought I was being unrealistic. I knew it would be a long time before I could make money at writing and this was way before the days of home computers and the internet. Books were something you held in your hands and literally turned the pages. 🙂 But, I would soon be graduating and knew I must seek employment in the real world. Growing up very poor, I knew how important it was to have a REAL paying job. And I knew real life didn’t make finding time to write easy. So, I just wrote when I couldn’t help myself. And, I joined the real world. I mostly had office jobs but did also work at a couple of news papers typesetting. They were small rural papers and everyone usually had to wear more than one hat. So, the editor also had me cover some news stories and I also built ads….all the old fashioned way with equipment no one has heard of now unless you collect antiques. I married in my late 20’s. Never had children. I worked in my husband’s businesses as a bookkeeper etc. We varied from low to medium income. Twelve hour days and all the frustration that comes with owning a small business. Now, he is disabled and we lost the business. As the years passed, I virutally never wrote anything. Too tired, too busy, etc. But, in those unexpected moments of day or night when something came to me that I felt should be written……….I just let it go. The words of my 6th grade teacher kept slapping me. In effect, it’s a silly thing to do for real people living real lives in the cold cruel world. But, long ago, somewhere in the middle of a sleepless night when I was wishing I had kept writing, I asked myself WHY? There’s no money in it for most people and I need to spend my time on something useful. Then it hit me. The reason I yearned to write was this: I WRITE, NOT BECAUSE IT WILL BE READ….BUT BECAUSE IT MUST BE SAID. And that became my silent motto I never repeated to anyone. I also never wrote anything creative again. But, through the years I helped people with speeches for church and many business letters explaining our point of view. People always said “you have a way with words”. That small locked away part of my heart would smile. Then, enter the computer age. Now there are blogs and ebooks and different means of publishing. I don’t know much about any of it. I joined Jeff’s email and read most of his notes about his books and other items. I have not bought any or participated in any chances to listen in on live discussions. I am not doing the 31 day challenge. I have never left a comment on his site before. But, reading today’s subject about the reasons to and not to write, made me think again of my secret silent motto. I think it sums up what Jeff is getting at. And once again, that small locked away piece of my heart smiles.

    1. Victoria, I want to read more from you. I know exactly what you’re talking about because these are my secrets, too. Keep writing! Please, never stop. You ARE a writer, and a good one.

  35. Writing to get published is “downright blasphemous”?!

    I’m sorry Jeff this is straight up poppycock. In you “You Are A Writer” podcast and eBook you say the exact opposite. You are not a “real writer” until you have written for some one else. You even say that getting published has nothing to do with content it is all about the relationships you have. I subscribed to your Blog and purchased your pod casts and eBooks for the positive energy and inspirational message.

    Now you write things like “You sound stupid if …”, “Real writers don’t …” and completely contradict yourself.

    Shortly after you published “the In-between” you wrote “I just landed my Dream Book Deal” and spoke about how all your work finally paid off. Now that you are published it’s not something we should strive for?

    To say “real writers don’t write to get published” is at least hyperbole at most disingenuous. In my early going I depend mostly on freelance income to feed my family as did Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Charles DIckens, Ernest Hemingway Steven King. All these great writers produced work specifically for publication. They just managed to stay true to their art in the process.

    I wish you would stick to lifting us up and inspiring us rather that criticizing and telling what the wrong thing is. You have the gift of inspiration Jeff I have followed you since 2012 and I hope you can get back to you positive inspirational message. If your going to change your core message as you go along you at least need the self awareness of this as part of your growth. For me as a consumer I feel like I own the 8-track version of Goins.

  36. I’m sorry I can’t agree totally with you, Jeff. Of course writers write for the love of it–why else would we do it? Yeah, we all know writers who wrote for money or fame or you name it, but the first impulse to write comes from something bubbling inside you that you must give voice to. It’s a pure impulse, and often we don’t even know why we start. But if we’re innate writers, we always do.

    More than anything, writing is an act of communication – communicating your thoughts and emotions to someone else, who can read them. That’s the essence of any creative endeavor – it’s meant to go from the creator to the one who receives it. To say that it doesn’t matter if anyone else reads it (ie, why crave publication?) makes no sense. By definition, writing is meant to be read by others. Publishing it makes that possible on a mass scale.

    On top of that, I would suggest that we all run a race with time in this life, and that the process of publishing a book that is then sold and reaps a monetary reward for you is a good thing Why? IT BUYS YOU MORE TIME TO WRITE.

    I don’t know any writer who doesn’t struggle constantly with keeping all the balls of daily life in the air – family, health, and often, job (other than writing). I’ve struggled for years to earn money and write ‘on the side’. It’s exhausting and it often just doesn’t work, because it takes ENERGY to hear that soft word of inspiration from God and then take it and create a project, something I often don’t have after tending to everything else. For something you do primarily sitting in a chair, writing is one of the most physical jobs it’s possible to imagine, and while a good writing day exhilarates me, it also wipes me out. Creation is HARD. (No wonder God rested on the 7th day!)

    So if you can earn money at writing, while staying true to what you want to say? I say, bravo. Keep it up. Not only is it heartening to think you can be paid for doing what you love (a lesson we all need to learn), but the few (or sometimes many) dollars you earn buys you THAT MUCH MORE TIME you can re-invest in a writing project you love.

    I’m grateful for every dollar I earn as a writer. They let me sit and pound away at my stories, the ones hidden in my heart, which no one may ever be interested in, but which matter profoundly to me.

    To me, if you’re simply trying to tell the stories you have inside you, you’re remaining true to the gift God gave you, and the idea that you’re somehow ‘purer’ by not caring whether anyone reads your stuff is as silly as a carpenter building a table and not caring whether someone will ever use it. A table is meant to be used. A story is meant to be read. Otherwise, what is it there for? To me, the truly selfish act is creating something no one else will ever have the chance to know. Then it really IS all about you, isn’t it?

    Telling our stories and doing our best to get them into a reader’s hands is the way writers thank God for their gift. And both those pieces are important, if we’re to do what God put us here to do – give voice to what’s inside us and spread that word to others.

    Susan Sloate

  37. Great post Jeff. I think naturally I want everyone in the world to think I’m the best writer ever, it only takes looking a negative review on Amazon to wake me up 🙂 I’m a writer, speaker and coach but if I love writing above everything else. I would do it for free and until my fingers fell off 🙂

  38. Dear Jeff, I really love what you say about writing as an act of creation and incarnation! You always inspire me and make me happy with your words. Neverelss, this will be one of the few day without writing. I am so tired! Thanks!

  39. Thank you Jeff for this great reminder. I am challenged by your statement: “We begin to focus on the audience more than the act of creating, and ultimately, our art suffers.” How is it possible to fix this in today’s publishing climate? My journey of writing begun with a passion to share a message that was burning in my heart. Then, I learned that I must “build a platform” or “create an audience.” Chat on Twitter, post some clever things on Facebook, share pics on Pinterest and Instagram, and gather every warm body I know to be in my clan. For the past few years, I have been working on doing that. Of course, this means that my time for writing has dwindled to a minimum. How sad is that?! I have not completed my book and my heart aches to “give birth” to it already. New book ideas are pushing the first one out, like candies out of a PEZ candy dispenser. All this reminds me of something that Michael Hyatt once told me, “Ines, you have to work on both at the same time.” I complained, “Michael, this is akin to rubbing my stomach, patting my head and saying ‘she sells seashells by the sea shore.'” His response, “yup.” No wonder I’m stuck. How do you balance all of this? I am open to ideas.

  40. Jeff: what you write on this post is a poignant reminder and quite honestly the Spirit of God talking through you, admonishing the reader to “take heed”, “pay attention”, and “give ear” to something deeper being expressed.
    In the spirit of the upcoming Olympic games (albeit the winter games), you did a “Mary Lou Retton – perfect 10!” and nailed it on this post….MANY THANKS!!

  41. Hi Jeff,

    I agree…. to a point.

    “So we write, because we enjoy it but also because we want to be
    recognized and celebrated. This is a natural feeling, but also a
    self-destructive one.” – I have found this to be true in more than one endeavor in my life.

    I used to love to knit and to do hand smocking, especially when my daughter was young. I felt great joy in the creative process and loved the process as much as the results (which also led to several unfinished projects, as I loved smocking dresses more than sewing the pieces together ;-). Somewhere along the way, someone admired my smocking and knitting and said I could sell it to make a little extra money. Worst thing that could have happened, because it then became something I “had” to do to help support our little family. I felt guilty for time I spent reading instead of knitting. My daughter had fewer beautiful little dresses, and my nieces and nephews no longer received hand smocked or knitted presents. There wasn’t enough love there for the craft and the creative process to support the leap into money-making venture. It was sad, but I learned a valuable lesson. It takes commitment beyond enjoyment, even beyond passion to survive the transition into something I’m willing to do for a living.

    So far the only two activities I’ve had (which are hobbies to some, but soul-deep passions to me) that I’ve been successful in segueing into careers are horses and writing. I’m incredibly fortunate in being able to do what I truly love for a living.

    I suppose that having turned these activities into careers may mean that I’ve sold out, that I depend on them for an income, and don’t just practice for the passion; but to me, the real wonder is that I’m able to maintain the passion and still make an income doing something I truly love. I don’t feel like I’ve sold out, more like I’ve bought into a life for which I’m eternally grateful.

  42. Anything we do that’s trying to replace our need for God, His power and acceptance is bound to fail. If that’s what “being published” means to me, you are dead on.
    For me, “being published” means there’s a far greater chance the truths God has blessed me with will have a chance to impact others. If my manuscript languishes for no good reason on my computer it would be a tragedy for Jesus’ kingdom.
    Your point is right on, but every issue has many sides. 🙂

  43. I’m the perfect example of this, though I didn’t know it at the time. When my father, a WWII veteran, started having nightmares and flashbacks in his 80’s, I began a long journey to discovering the truth. When I was a little girl, he told a handful of stories about the war, but he said he’d just sat behind a desk during the war. Well, now, more than 50-years after the war, he was suffering. I wanted to help him. So, I started asking questions, doing research and reading the 400 pages of letters he wrote during the war. Very slowly, I decided to write it all down – for my kids to have a history of their grandpa. Eventually, other people who heard about it were influential enough that I realized this was a story that needed to be told, not just for my family, but for others as well.

    As we came to an emotional resolution that helped my father with his PTSD, I became driven to get this story out, so that others could benefit from what we learned. I’m thankful that this was my first experience with a book that was published. Breaking the Code: a Father’s Secret, a Daughter’s Journey, and the Question That Changed Everything (Sourcebooks) came out in 2011.

    The letters I get from family of veterans suffering from PTSD are a testament to the fact that my father’s story is changing lives. I’m thankful that I’ve had this experience, in this way.

    If you write it – they will come. When your motives are pure, good things come to you. That might mean a publisher, an influential person, or a printed book. It happens all the time. It happened for me and it can happen for anyone! I really, truly believe that.

  44. As a new blogger starting out, I already see the dichotomy of writing from the heart and writing for an audience. For now, the clamouring from my heart is louder than those from my readers and I try every day not to buckle under the pressure of the statistics.

    What I have discovered, thankfully early on, is that readers are compelled to read articles that emanate sincerity and speak with an authentic voice, so I believe as long we hold true to those two tenets, the words will touch those who listen.

    All we need to do is transcribe what our heart tells us.

      1. It’s not a primary motivation. But it comes very damn close! Let me elaborate. We are all motivated to write for different reasons, but to get published is part of following through with what you started. For the amount of time we take to write, to be published makes it worth the while and demonstrates to others how much writing means to us. Writing is something we all feel deep down inside and have to do. We are screaming for people to read our words. Being published helps them find those words.

        1. Let’s take a deeper look at the motive then. What I hear you saying is that you want to be published so that people who need to hear your words will have access to them. That motivation comes from your higher calling to serve your readers. What Jeff is talking about in this article is something else entirely… being published for fame, money, or to feel important. In other words, being published should be the means to a greater end, and that greater end should be your primary motivation for writing.

  45. This seems to disparage people, writers, who want to be published. Don’t try to tell me that I write for the wrong reasons… it’s unfair to judge people who have different goals and motivations that you do.

    I write because I love my stories, and I want to share them with others. I want to be published, and I’m not ashamed of that desire.

    1. When you write because you love your stories and want to share them with others, you naturally want to be published to share them with as many people as possible. Also, the desire to be published can motivate you to learn to write and edit well. However; I have met some – and I think those are the people Jeff is “disparaging”- whose only goal is publication and the perceived fame thereof.

  46. I loved what you said about writing being a sacred act. I am acutely aware of the fact that my writing is nothing when my relationship with God is amiss. When I write out of my love for Him and what He has done for me, it is nothing short of a miraculous partnership that draws me closer to Him.

  47. Yep. Paul Harvey, or someone famous, was credited with saying, “Find something you love to do and do it so well you make a living at it.” I cannot not write. It is the same way with music. So far, I have made more of a living at music than writing, but neither muse will be silenced.

  48. There is no higher calling or muse.
    I am not a mouthpiece for an imaginary god.
    I created my own voice, forged by my life.
    I speak my own messages, fueled by my choices.

    I write for myself.
    I write for my readers.
    I write for my characters.
    I write for the story, the tail.

    Write what you love.
    Love what you write.

    After all,
    if your words
    aren’t published
    no one will
    ever read them.

    So, write to get published, if that is what feels right to you.

  49. Writing solely for money or recognition may not be good or wise. But the innate craving for recognition and admiration is always there and cannot be wished away. By the way, while your article/advice is otherwise laudable, I think you mean to say “writing is an incarnaional act” whereas the sentence reads “writing as an incarnational act” ! Hi, have I got it right?

  50. Jeff, I write because I have been given a voice, but was too scared to air it. It is such a breath of fresh air to write, I can’t just keep away from it. I understand what you mean about not writing to be published. Because it is then you write from the heart, and share your story that touches the human heart and reaches out for the soul.

    Once that happens, then getting published becomes a conduit through which many more can access your heart. I think writing is a service to humanity…

      1. It does Jeff! I can’t wait to get my next blog post, comment or letter out. It feels like my heart is singing a long, beautiful song. When I finished writing my first book ever, I thought I had ran out of words. After my first few blog posts, my end of writing I thought was nigh. Two years and counting… Then today, out of the blue I get a Tweet “Your blog is one of the Top 100 Most Socially-Shared Leadership Blogs!” It was such an awesome feeling to know that I can continue writing words that are of service to others… I love writing 🙂

      1. Hello everyone i want to share a live testimony on how Dr Alex was able to bring my husband back to me, myself and my husband were on a serious breakup, even before then we were always quarreling fighting and doing different ungodly act..
        My husband packed his things out of the house and we had to live in different area, despite all this i was looking for a way to re_unite with my husband, not until i met Dr Alex the great spell caster who was able to bring my husband back home, Dr Alex cast a love spell for me, and after some time i started seen results about the spell….
        Today my family is back again and we are happy living fine and healthy, with Dr Alex all my dream came through in re_uniting my marriage, friends in case you need the help of Dr Alex kindly mail him on( solutionhelpcentre@gmail.com ) or call him on +2347036013351, Sir i will forever recommend you!!

  51. This is true! The encouragement I get from readers compliments is a powerful reason to keep writing what I write, fiction and non-fiction.

    At the same time, selling my writing, or making money from it, helps too. It helps me get to write more, thus experience the thrill of compliments and the knowledge that I’m entertaining people with my writing more.

    The love of writing. The love of entertaining. Creating a living to do more of the first 2 – That’s the order of importance for me.

  52. I have been part of a writing group for a few months now and almost immediately the facilitator started telling me that I should think about writing to please a larger auidience. You see I am a christian writer, I write because god stared an inferno of passion deep in my soul for glorifing him.writing for any other reason would be in disobedience to my creater.

    The amazing part of this story is that just last night I sat in front of my computer trying to write something for my group that was due to meet this morning. I was struggling with the idea of writing to please others and writing to please god, which in turn pleases my soul. I tossed around the idea of wanting to be published but I see now after reading this that if I write to please others it won’t be my true voice.
    My voice glorifies god and if being published is
    god’s will then I submit fully to that and I will
    have the peace in my heart of knowing that
    everything I write comes from my love and
    submission to the father and not man.
    By the way, my group was canceled this morning and I have no doubt that it was gods hand giving me more time to realize who I truly am in him.

  53. I love this article. Now I want to get the book by Madeleine L’Engle who I have always loved.

    I wrote an article on my blog a few months back that started, you know you are a writer when… and had examples like it’s 5 pm and you just realized you haven’t taken a shower. The point was that you get so wrapped up in the process of writing that the rest of the world seems to fall away.

    A woman on in a LinkedIn group stated that you aren’t a writer unless you get paid for writing. I think that is a sad way to look at writing. If you can’t consider yourself a writer unless you get paid, you aren’t a writer in my book. If many of the famous writers who weren’t recognized until they had died read her thoughts, I think they would roll over in their graves. Great article!!!

  54. I opened my blog a few weeks ago:) I thought so many of my friends would celebrate it but the silence in the first 2 weeks was deafening. Reading google analytics was depressing and begging people to join my mailing list. I was so upset until I read your ebook The Writer’s Manifesto…I almost cried when I read it…I love to write….Thanks for that message…

  55. Some people do not write because they “can’t not write” or because it is
    a means of expressing some art within them. Some people write because
    it is a skill they have and they can use it to make an income. So you
    are saying then that those people are not and cannot be writers? I whole-
    heartedly agreed with your recent How Not to Be Stupid post, but I
    cannot say the same here.

    I found I was good at English and
    writing in high school, majored in it in college. 95% of the time I
    write nonfiction. I worked for 10+ years as a freelancer for everything
    from local newspapers to ezines. I covered township board meetings,
    wrote articles and got paid. There was little about it that was my own
    self expression. It was a second job that I needed and that helped pay
    the bills by being published. Did I enjoy the job? Most of the time.
    Could I lose myself in writing for hours at a time? No, I had a deadline
    and my goal was to write well and write on time. Does that mean I was
    not a writer?

    As someone else said below, I am not ashamed of any of that work and I proudly call myself a freelance writer. I’ve also written and independently published two books. With those I felt called to write them and they have been used to share the Gospel across the country and to the other side of the world. I intended to publish them from day one. I doubt I would bother to do it if I wasn’t going to share what I wrote somehow. I know some people do and that’s great for them and there are also plenty of writers who still write for magazines when they can find the work. We’re all writers, it’s not one size fits all.

  56. I don’t think the manifesto is saying you should not be paid to write or receive compensation for your work. I think the point is that writing like anything else should be a passion that you enjoy. Otherwise, it will become dreary work like any job someone stays at too long after the passion is gone. We should write as close to daily as possible to build our skills. When I don’t workout for the two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s, I know it my first time back in the gym. I am off for a few days. The manifesto will speak to many writers.

  57. Being a “real” writer has little to do with whether or not you’re published and/or paid for it. Like other forms of creative expression, it can be an art or a craft, a meditation or a compulsion – determined by the person, the frame of mind, the purpose, the skill, or even the time of day. I’ve written for pay, for the education or entertainment of others, for love, and for my own self-therapy. But Jeff, I understand completely what you meant in saying that a writer is someone who can’t not write. I’m one of those people. Sometimes when time constraints prevent my writing for a period, I become unbalanced – not in a serial killer kind of way, but I lose my focus because I’m absolutely craving the opportunity to sit and write. The Muse stirs and I am compelled to open a vein and let the words out.

  58. I don’t agree with the opposites you have set up. Having something “to say” implies a listener. Being a mouthpiece for something also implies that the something seeks a listener. That is different from pursuing publication as a means to accolades. Even Kafka’s request that his writings be burned tell me he had an idea about the reader from whom he wanted to withhold them.

  59. I love how you characterize writing! My friends/mentors and I set aside Friday afternoons to write as our “scroll day,” but often we end up chatting or being forced to do busywork as opposed to writing. Sometimes we get so frustrated and exclaim how much easier it would be to simply get a ghost writer to compile all of our teachings we do with the ministry we’re involved with (the Omaha HUB). Instead, I like how you state that writing is sometimes an arduous, tedious task, but it is one that we do because we are writers, not because we are in it for the money or for the fans. We are in it because writing is a prayer, and the audience of One is captivated by it. It gives new hope and light to our scroll days! 🙂

  60. I wrote poems as a kid and was a free lance writer for a local paper in high school and engineering but ended up pursuing engineering partly because I love math but to be honest partly because it offered better pay than what I saw my fellow writers at the paper making. I’ve finally come back to my love of writing after being born again with a book I’ve been writing for a few years now and having published, and with my blog. I do enjoy being an engineer but it feels good to be writing again. I don’t quite get your emphasis on not caring who’s reading what you’re writing since there is so much emphasis among pretty much all bloggers I’ve seen on marketing and developing a platform. Raising a family and having a lot of good options for the use of my time, it’s hard to justify the time I spend writing if no-one’s actually reading it and there’s no financial gain from it. Plus I feel God has put in my heart what I’m writing and that He wants me to share it with others, so just writing for the sake of writing doesn’t make sense to me.

  61. Thanks for the reminder that first of all our writting is a God given gift that gives glory back to God…. I used to write in my journal every day and loved it…I found it a very fulfilling way to express myself and out of that I found “stories” emerge occasionally….or poems… friends have said that what I wrote really touched them….then I thought about maybe starting a blog,,,,haven’t a clue where to begin with that one….or writting a book based on the journal writtings and what has come out of those….but then I found that I didn’t journal as often as I was getting confused about whether to write the book or if anyone would want it….or even read it……
    I do believe that if I write that way then it has tobe something others would want to rad…otherwise why write it….and that’s where the problem unfolds…the questions buzz back and forth to do it or not do it….but in the meantime my journal writting and expressing me falls behind…so thanks for this…I know now that until all those questions are answered I need to get back towritting in my journal…because once I loved it and I have to rediscover that love…

  62. I really loved the Manifesto…very well-written and quite inspirational! Thank you for your time and your thoughts..

  63. This is beautiful, to write for yourself. And get rid of the worry of “is any body going to read this?”.

  64. Im so glad i found this blog! Ive come to love writing and my passion for it only grows.
    Finding this was a huge inspiration!

  65. Wow! Very well articulated and such a revelation! Thank you so much for your guidance. As an aspiring journalist, I’m finding your blogs invaluable as well as nothing short of inspiring. It’s wonderful to feel your passion emanating through these words for such an honourable and marvellous field. 🙂

  66. Hello everyone i want to share a live testimony on how Dr Alex was able to bring my husband back to me, myself and my husband were on a serious breakup, even before then we were always quarreling fighting and doing different ungodly act..
    My husband packed his things out of the house and we had to live in different area, despite all this i was looking for a way to re_unite with my husband, not until i met Dr Alex the great spell caster who was able to bring my husband back home, Dr Alex cast a love spell for me, and after some time i started seen results about the spell….
    Today my family is back again and we are happy living fine and healthy, with Dr Alex all my dream came through in re_uniting my marriage, friends in case you need the help of Dr Alex kindly mail him on( solutionhelpcentre@gmail.com ) or call him on +2347036013351, Sir i will forever recommend you!!!

  67. Thought the article was pretty neat. Only to be surprised by the message at the end:

    How I got 100,000 blog readers in 18 months

    Sign up for the free newsletter and get a three-part series on exactly what I did to grow my blog from zero to 100,000 readers in less than two years. Enter your email below to get started.

    Great way of ruining the message for me.

    1. I think you are missing the forest for the trees here. Jeff isn’t saying that you shouldn’t be published or have a huge audience of readers. He himself is the author of 4 books. Just imagine if any of the greatest writers in history had been motivated by being published, or by some other extrinsic “shiny object”… Do you think their works would be as great?

  68. That’s the silliest crap I’ve ever read. Have you ever actually met a real, published writer? Anyone who writes because they can’t not write needs a psychiatrist. REAL writers write for a hundred different reasons, including to get published, for fame, and purely for money. Seriously, you sound like an advert for a carnival, and like someone who has no clue.

    Don’t judge what everyone does by your own silly prejudices, or by what you read in some idiotic, artsy-fartsy book in college. In the real world, writers write for every reason imaginable, but when a writers says he can’t not write, he’s always being pretentious.

    1. You’re free to believe what you will but there are those who write for pure enjoyment, who may start to feel depressed if they do not get their feelings and thoughts out to the world, even if it’s only in a journal that they alone will see. I’m one of these people myself and I’ve written as long as I can remember. Sure I’d jump on the opportunity to be published and get money for my work but who wouldn’t jump on the chance to eat a homemade apple pie when it’s offered. My main goal has always been to write for my own enjoyment and to entertain others.

      And as for all published authors doing it for the money alone, I contacted a published author just a couple months ago to compliment her writing skills and she ended up sending me a link to a site where contest winners got her books for free. She gave me the password and when I went there I found it contained EVERY single thing she’d ever published. If that’s not proof enough to convince you that not all published writers only do it for the money I don’t know what is.

      I apologize if this is heated at all, you’re generalizations had me a bit offended and I felt a responsibility to inform you that not everything is what it seems. I hope you’re having a good day (Or night depending on where you live)!

      1. The writer who sent you to the link with her publications sounds like she writes to be read, to connect. Not necessarily for money but not just to write either.

    2. A few years go I met a most prolific (and prolifically published) author who actually lived like an ermit and didn’t need to be published. I asked him why he kept writing and his answer was: ” I can’t not write “. He wrote until the very end of his life, and was one of the most respected authors in Quebec in spiritual and self-help/growth litterature.

    3. What Jeff is talking about here isn’t just for the “artsy-fartsy” folks. The same principle is applicable to the doctor who practices medicine for the money. Pursuing any discipline with the wrong motives (i.e. extrinsic motives) can never be truly fulfilling, and as a result the work suffers too. Look at anyone who is really great at what they do and I am willing to bet that their primary motivation comes from something deep inside. As writers, we should be asking ourselves how our voice can help others, and only then will we be able to make our mark on the world.

      1. I came by the comment when I read this page. It says something that is worth something. It explains how you should be motivated in what you set out to do and you should be able to reach ways to take things further.

    4. I write because I have something to say. If I was only writing for myself, I would, and have, long before I ever was published.

  69. I feel like this is exactly what I needed to read tonight. Thank you for putting this much effort into what I felt like was a message written at the right place at the right time for Mee. Thank you. PS you seriously have an amazing writing style. LOVE.

  70. we offer guarantees for privacy protection, original content, timely delivery, free revisions, and full refund. You can contact our 24/7 support staff any time you think the term paper you have received is below par. term paper

  71. It give some indispensable knowledge to guide you as a writer through the direction you want to go in. It explains several reasons why it could be a goal for a writer to consider approaching a publisher if you [the writer] want to publish your work. This can lead to getting in contact with an agent so you could submit a proposal for a book you’re going to write and you could do a synopsis by learning about these subjects posted here. It is an interesting read.

  72. I feel this is exactly what I needed at this time. Explaining how your voice comes out in writing is a challenge because Still want to wtite as if I was in Grad school , but the more I practice I can feel my “voice”coming through. All the Best and thank you Jeff Goins .

  73. Simply amazing article! Thanks for the info, you made it easy to understand. I am sure at least once in your life you had to merge some documents. I use a simple service https://bit.do/bJHcd for docs merging. It definitely makes my life easier!

  74. Actually I can’t figure it out. I know that this all is subjective but I always keep in mind that Carrie by Stephen King could be not published. And this is one of my favorite books. Can you imagine this? I don’t.

Comments are closed.