I had a bit of a medical scare this past weekend. Though in all likelihood it was nothing, there’s nothing like a real or imagined brush with mortality to bring one’s life into sharp focus. Over the course of the past few days, I seriously questioned whether I should continue writing—or, more accurately, whether to persist in self-publishing and marketing my books when they aren't selling as well as I would like. I kept coming back to the question I posed in my last blog—why? (As in, why should I even bother?) Well, I believe I have finally answered my own question.

I am a person who strives for excellence, and while popularity isn’t necessarily a hallmark of a writer’s brilliance, I crave literary success as proof positive that I am good at what I do. I have no desire to waste my precious time—or anyone else’s—putting out substandard work. Either I've got the goods to back up my newly-professed claim of being a "writer," or I don't. And how else will I find out unless I give readers the chance to evaluate (and hopefully embrace) my books?

I've become clear about something else, too: The most important aspect of this so-called "success" is not the royalties earned from selling books. It is the indescribable joy that comes from knowing that others have derived pleasure from my words. Sure, I think my books are great—I loved writing them and think they each have something unique to say. But all amateur authors feel this way. What separates the wheat from the chaff in this business is whether a writer can move a large audience of readers in some way—surprise them, entertain them, or make them think. If I can do that with my singular handling of the written word, then I’ve truly got what it takes. But if my writing doesn't pass one—and hopefully all three—of these tests, it's just my own masturbatory drivel, which I'd just as soon keep to myself. I have no need or desire to publicly expose my technical and psychological deficiencies like the latest screwball guest on a Jerry Springer episode (or whatever today’s equivalent might be).

Whenever someone likes one of my books, it’s a small sign that I am, indeed, on the right path. And that occasional, blissful bit of reinforcement is the one thing that makes this sometimes cruel, often thankless publishing business worthwhile. I will admit to wanting a whole lot more of that. So, for the time being anyhow, I'll keep hawking The Floater in the hope that it passes muster with the media—and eventually the reading public. I believe it is good—really good. But it’s grading period now. Booklets closed and pencils down, I am waiting for a few hundred of you to tell me whether I pass the test.