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The Price of a Book

“…our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”

Thomas Paine


Mr. Paine’s comment was a reflection on the nature of government. However, the perils and benefits of government are derived from a more primary nature—human nature. His maxim holds true for any field of human endeavor. Contrary to what the proponents of AI would have us believe, writing is a human endeavor.


Animals and plants communicate. I would venture to say that they do so more efficiently than humans. Our communication with each other is fraught with defense of ego, self-promotion, and hidden agendas to name only a few of its flaws. While we are quick to deride such foibles of personality, those are the very things that separate writing from mere communication.


We want flawed characters. We want heroes who act without regard for their own lives. We want villains so evil it strains the imagination to conceive of what they do. We want love poems and scenes of sorrow that drive us to despair. Even when we write of imaginary worlds, we target human emotion and action.


What has that to do with authoring our own suffering? Well, I ask the question only for those who do not write and newcomers. Those who write and publish know exactly what I’m talking about.


Writing, when it is going well, is a flight into worlds of joy. Run out of gas and the ground comes up fast with a sudden, painful stop at the end. Of course, you need not run out of gas. There are many waiting behind the sights of their anti-aircraft guns for a target to pass by. They find a special victory in shooting down writers. Publish a book and you will find your true friends. Publish a second and find out how many of them were simply being kind.


A writer who has not been told to give it up is a rare animal indeed. Writers who have not said that to themselves are either fools or sociopaths. The world would be a kinder, gentler place if we would only heed that advice. And yet, we persist in this addiction to scribbling words on paper (figuratively speaking) and thus become the architects of our own suffering.


We persist when no one is buying our books, when nary a soul is turning pages, and when people learning that we are authors smile and say, “That’s nice”. Why do we do it? What masochistic force propels us on? It is what we do and any suffering we put down to the cost of doing business—it’s the price of a book.



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