A couple times recently I’ve asked you questions that encourage you to decide why you’re writing. (See If You Had to Choose, and What is Success?) I’ve been asking you to identify the goal at the heart of your writing journey—are you seeking to reach a wide audience with your words, or is it more important for you to write what’s in your heart? While both goals may be possible, I’ve presented false dichotomies designed to encourage introspection about what you want out of this. Money? Fame? The simple pleasure of sharing words with others? The catharsis of expressing yourself? All of the above?
I’ve noticed lately that there seem to be two general kinds of posts amongst the publishing blogs:
1. The ones that talk about writing a commercial, saleable book, and how to make yourself marketable through building a platform; and
2. The ones that tell you to forget all considerations of publishing and marketing, and simply write. Write your truth, write your heart, write the best you can and don’t be sullied by considerations of what will sell.
This is over-simplified—perhaps a generalization—but it characterizes the two extremes of advice we read on the web.
On this blog I try to walk the line between the extremes, but I think it often appears I’m flat-out contradicting myself. I’ve been known to advocate both approaches to writing. The truth is, I’m torn.
As a writer, a voracious reader, a thinker, and an artist myself, I want to tell you to be an artist, be true to yourself, write your deepest truth. But as an agent, I also need to help you find success in publishing, and this means taking into account all kinds of considerations of the market.
There are different reasons people write. More importantly, there are different reasons people read. Sometimes we read and write as a way to express truth, or search for it. Sometimes it’s an exploration of our own hearts—whether we’re reading or writing. Sometimes we’re seeking facts, or seeking to convey facts to others. Sometimes we read or write because we want a good story—one that entertains us, relaxes our minds, allows us to get lost in another world for a period of time.
Since there are so many different reasons for both reading and writing, we can’t give a “one size fits all” piece of advice. Not only do we all differ in our purpose for reading and writing, each of us may differ in our own journeys from week to week, or from year to year. Sometimes we sit down to read or write a fun story, and other times we’re seeking something deeper, more interested in things profound or important.
The way I try to bridge the extremes is that I often tell my clients, “Find where your passion meets the market.” I’m not saying my clients should “sell out” and “write to the market” but I’m acknowledging that if they want to sell, they need to be looking for ways that the writings of their heart will connect with others and have a chance of selling.
I’d sometimes rather just tell everyone, “Write what’s true for you. Forget about the market.” And some people will do that and find publishing success. But some people won’t find publishing success by doing that.
So what then? Do we advise people to either give up their publishing dreams—or change what they write? I don’t know. Again, this completely depends on the goal of the individual writer. Is mass publication important to you, or is it secondary?
Will you find publishing success by writing what comes most naturally to you, or will you find it by paying more attention to what the market wants? I can’t answer that one in a general sense.
Since I don’t know what you need to hear or what will work for you, all I can do is continue playing both sides of this fence: encouraging you to find your voice, speak your truth, write the very best you can, be an artist. And also teaching you about the ins and outs of the market, how to craft better books, how to build a platform, how to understand publishing, and all the other things that go along with the “business” side of writing.
I’m torn, and I accept this state of being as the peculiar necessity of my chosen career.
Are you torn?
Photo from Flickr.com.
© 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent