When I was young, I announced that I was going to run an inn. Not just a bed and breakfast, but an old-fashioned inn. It would be the embodiment of elegance and sophistication. Staying there would be like joining an exclusive club. Holidays would be by invitation only. Gazillion thread count sheets and Waterford crystal would be so normal they weren't worth noticing. While I was making all these plans, an adult friend of mine said "I hope you like cleaning toilets."
Wait, what? No. They hadn't been listening. I wouldn't be cleaning the toilets. I would be the proprietor. Socialites and heads of state would have me on speed dial, hoping to book a floor of rooms for this celebration or that get away. Someone else would clean the toilets. To which this person replied "Perhaps eventually. But until then, you better like cleaning toilets."
Skip forward several years to a cab ride I was taking just a few weeks ago. The cabbie was talking to me about how he'd like to be a writer, how he gets lots of stories driving the city at night, and how he could write them all down. I was encouraging him, because, quite frankly, I think it's a really cool concept. Then he asked if people would read it, because he didn't want to write it if people wouldn't read it. My immediate reaction was "he doesn't like to clean toilets."
Okay, so maybe liking to clean toilets is too much. But you do have to be willing to clean toilets, be willing to do the dirty work. Because yes, sometimes even being a writer includes doing dirty work. Sometimes, being a writer is just like having any other job. You slog through it, hating every word, every edit, every character and plot twist. You hate every agent, every editor, every query and cover letter. At this point, you'd better be writing because you love it, because you love the story you're telling. It isn't enough to write so that other people will read it and you will become a famous author. It isn't enough, in these moments, to want to see your book on a shelf and attend a book signing. This is the point where, unless you love it, you will quit.
Which is basically what I told my cabbie. What I tell anyone who asks how to decide what to write. When you sit down to write, don't worry if it will sell, if anyone else will want to read it. Write the story for you. Write the story you love, that you want to read. Funniest thing, all those years ago, my friend was right. The story you love is the one that makes it worth cleaning toilets.
--- Pauline Trent