"You have to write the thing that fills you with passion. You have to write something you love the way you love your children: all the time, even when you want to murder them. You have to write something you love so much it doesn't even cross your mind to ask "am I wasting my time" because to NOT write it would be wasting your heart."
YES! This is the heart and soul of the matter. Books are not just random words on paper. The best, beloved reads from my childhood are like precious friends. They are stories and characters that transported me, comforted me, and made me laugh, cry, or shiver. There are authors I reach for today because I know that their vision will move me, touch something within me. For those of us for whom reading is a sacred activity, books will never be just words on a page and writing never merely something to fill the time or feed the gaping maw of a popular culture weaned on too much TV.
Writing is hard. Writing well is much harder. I spent nearly two years sharing mental living space with the characters and story of "Wings." (Think about sharing a studio apartment with a dozen people--you had better damned well love them--and even then, it's not an easy thing!) What I want as a writer is to share that passion with the reader. When I envision what it is to be 'successful' at writing, I don't see myself rolling in piles of cash with hollywood agents banging down my door. (Sure, that would be nice, in the way it would be nice to win a gazillion dollars in the lottery, but I'm not holding my breath.) The scene that fills my heart with warm-and-fuzzies is imagining someone on a plane or subway engrossed in my book. Or seeing a reader lovingly pull my book from the bookshelf in our local indie bookstore.
So to all my writing friends out there: what Miss Snark said. :)