Writing vs. Publishing
We’ve had lots of discussions on this blog about “why we write.” But since I’m in the business of publishing, I often ponder the link between wanting to write—and wanting to be commercially published.
It’s difficult to separate the desire to write from the desire to be read. For many, the urge to write is linked to the dream of seeing their name on the cover of a book. Is this true for you? How do you know if you’re supposed to be published? If you’re not going to be, then is there any reason to keep writing? Or are the two inextricably linked in your mind?
Do writing and publishing just naturally go together?
For those of you who feel a spiritual “calling” to write: How do you discern whether you’re also called to publish? Or do you just assume that part?
I compare it to professional sports. Many boys dream of a career in the big leagues. But when they become men, all but a small minority give up their big league dreams, and instead enjoy their sport as a hobby. Why is it so different for writers? What makes most writers assume they are meant to be in the big leagues of publishing? Can writing be a hobby?
Is there value in writing for reasons other than commercial publication, such as writing a blog?
I’d love to hear what you think of this topic. And I hope you have a great weekend.
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent
Interesting question, Rachelle.I am one of those who feels a spiritual “calling” to write because I so desire to encourage others in a way that glorifies God. I always assumed that writing meant publishing.
That being said, I am at a place in my faith where I am learning to trust in His will and plan rather than my own. I would love to be able to earn an income doing something I feel I was born to do, but glorifying Him needs to come first.
In that vein, I forge ahead; writing on the blog, writing my books, and praying for His leading.
Thanks for the post, Rachelle. It has given me something to ponder. I hope you have a great weekend, too!
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I am late to this party, coming to this post from another one out there in blogdom during this month of August. The questions you ask are so important – and ones I have wrestled with during this first year of retirement from a demanding job. I wrote more about it here – if you have the time and interest, my words resonate with the questions and concerns expressed here.
>This is a fantastic train of thought – one in which my DH brought up to me the other night. It was an honest question. Why the pursuit of publication?
Sometimes I think it's just a drive, a passion, to contribute to the world of fiction. To impact readers with a good story, a message (as my writing is blatantly Christian), and see where the Lord wants to take me.
On the other hand, my unsaved Aunt has read my latest manuscript and WOW! Has it opened doors of communication into the world of Christ. LOVE IT! If for that one person alone the book was written, it was worth the hours of labor, the conferences, the nerves when meeting with agents/editors. It may never be published – I may never be published – but if one person can draw nearer to the Lord through a .pdf file and a summer's worth of rising at 5 AM … there is no greater purpose.
>For me, the two are not linked. I have felt God calling me to write, a “spiritual calling”, as you put it, for quite some time. But, recently, I have been reaffirmed that one of the reasons I was created was to share with others through the written word. As with everything else in life, I do not know what that future will look like and do not feel that God has “guaranteed” me anything.But, for me, it is bigger than being published. For a long time, that was my end goal. But, now, it is bigger for me to be faithful to the calling God has given me and stop worrying myself to death about where it might lead or even where I would like for it to lead.
>I write for a few different reasons, only some of which require publishing. I write to explore a creative idea, to discover something new — either through the voices and lives of my characters or through the research I do. That is why I'm a writer. But I also write to communicate with others, to inform and entertain and enlighten, and that is why I seek publication. Not all my writing is meant for publication, and not all my publications are especially great writing so much as entertaining, readable, and informative.
So, I think publication serves the readers' interests, while writing serves the writer's.
>I think I'll add that my neighbor is a retired pro ball player. He could have gone pro baseball, football, or basketball — a natural talent combined with singular focus and total commitment. He chose the sport he felt provided the greatest longevity and best odds for success. As it is with publishing a book, he is very proud of his achievement, and as with publishing a book, it is way cool to 'make it' in the major leagues. So I love your analogy. He'll always be a major league player, I'll always be a published author, and that's something to be proud of. There's something immensely satisfying in that level of achievement.
So yes, writing can be a hobby and has to be for many people, just like playing on the company league is a fun outlet for many people — but I don't know that you can call yourself a ball player or a writer if you never made a living at it. I cook every day, some days better than others, but I'm no chef. Maybe that's the answer to your question — is publishing and writing inextricably linked?
Best regards. I so enjoy your blog and your readers' comments. Thank you.
>I write because reading changed my life. As a child, like many of you, books allowed me access to worlds in which I was not painfully shy or always the last kid picked for kickball during recess. Books allowed me to sleuth several dozen mysteries, ride bareback upon a wild, gleaming black stallion that no one but me could tame, and have the most loyal canine companion in the world. In the fifth grade when Mrs. Matthes showed me how to write a story, writing gave me access, not to the world of another, but to the world of my own feelings. For the first time in my ten-year -old life, I had a voice! Now, I write to change lives like my life was changed, one small story at a time.
>In my twenties, I wanted to be a singing recording artist. Once I had other venues to perform, getting that record deal wasn't important anymore–because I had an outlet. Now with writing, since starting a blog, I'm less interested in publishing my book because I have this new outlet. God giving me the gift of singing and writing doesn't necessarily mean he intended for me to use it for anything else than what I'm doing now–using it. That could be with no audience, a small one or worldwide.
>I recently discovered your blog, and I'm so glad I did! Thank you for sharing. I have really enjoyed this post and all the comments. I feel 'connected' to others… strangers who feel the same way I do. And that thought makes me smile.
I write, because when I do I feel alive. I get lost for hours when the words are pouring out of my soul and onto the pages before me.
I may or may not ever be a published author (currently overwhelmed with publishing industry, fears). But I will always write…
>God should have been capitalized in my last comment–sorry. 😉
>Great question. I am a published author, who's been writing since I could formulate words to paper. It's always been my calling to be an author, not just a writer. god placed a vision in me early for my path in life. I'm meant to allow readers to walk in the shoes of my characters, feeling their every emotion along the way.
It never was a question for me-it just was…
>I don't think every writer is meant to publish. Is it neat to see one's work published but for many this is just too revealing, too personal to be shared with the world. For others, they need and crave the attention both good and bad. They just want to either let the world that they exist, or want to share their thoughts and experiences with others. For many, writing for themselves is enough.
For me, if I don't write I'm a miserable soul to be around. I also like to share some of my work with the world, but I'm not looking to get into the big leagues because then writing becomes more of a chore rather than a passion.
>1) I write to help me see. As an example: I am an amateur landscape artist. To paint the marshes and the creeks and landscape of the Carolina Lowcountry that surround me helps me look at these views and appreciate their beauty in far better way than I would otherwise. I now see colors in the shadows, purples I had never before noticed. To paint helps me to see. In the same way, writing helps me interpret life. I write fiction, and now I pick up the interesting nuances of people’s personalities I’d have missed. I find myself composing scenes in my head based on my experiences, and in this way I uncover treasures in life I’d have missed. Whether my work reaches publication or not, it serves a purpose, and that purpose is to open my eyes.
>I didn't start writing until I retired nine years ago. The joy of creating people, personalities and stories drive me to keep writing.
I held my breath after my novel was published. I didn't write for compliments and praise, but when a lady that I didn't know asked when my next book would be published, I thought she was talking about someone else. It's fun to write, and response is rewarding. I want to publish my second novel.
>I think it's quite natural for people to want to share what they create–and that's what publishing is, really, isn't it? It's one of the best ways to share your creation with others. There are rare individuals who truly prefer to write only for themselves and keep it hidden away (Emily Dickenson, for example), but I don't think a desire to see your own writing published necessarily means you're being too focused on fame instead of the writing. Like with most things in life, a healthy, balanced mindset can prevent you from becoming too focused on the celebrity of authorship.
>great question and one in which i thought about myself earlier this week. i've always loved words, always loved to write. from the time i was a young girl my goal was to write a book, then a movie, then songs. i guess the goal was originally to get my name in print but as i grew up the goal became to share encouragement with the lost and hurting part of the world. sometimes that's just a letter to a friend, or an encouraging email, or an unexpected card in the mail. the value of words is powerful but they don't need to be published to make a difference. they just need to be written and then given away.
>As with any profession, if we feel strongly enough about it, we will be willing to take it as far as we can. For me, not trying to get published isn't an option. I have to prove to myself and others that I am capable of making a writing life work for me. My life depends on it. I won't earn the respect of some people until I do make it. Normally, I wouldn't care what other people think, but in this case, there is a weight on my shoulders to make it happen.
>As with any profession, if we feel strongly enough about it, we will be willing to take it as far as we can. For me, not trying to get published isn't an option. I have to prove to myself and others that I am capable of making a writing life work for me. My life depends on it. I won't earn the respect of some people until I do make it. Normally, I wouldn't care what other people think, but in this case, there is a weight on my shoulders to make it happen.
>I have to add a P.S. – if I had been called to any other profession, the goal is still to be the best I can be and reach my audience with my work. If I were a CPA, my goal would be clients to do their bookkeeping and taxes.
As a writer, my goal is to be published to share my stories with my audience.
>I think you said it so well in "the desire to be read." In examining my motives, I realized I don't care about seeing my name on a book as much as I do having my stories read. I love to tell stories. Always have – always will.
>I'm a writer first and foremost. It's about the joy and satisfaction derived from experiencing the creation of a piece that transmits thoughts and ideas to readers. After a long career as a newspaper columnist covering local news,I've taken to blogging, which allows me the freedom to comment on diverse subjects. Frequently, people ask the inevitable question when informed that one is a writer: have you written a book? In other words, one isn't considered a "real" writer unless one is published. Not all writers have the makings or literary output for a book. Have to admit, though, that I've toyed with the idea of compiling my blog pieces for publication in book form. Be that as it may, as long as my inner writer provides me with material, I'll write because it feels good.
>Writing is my joy and at times my despair, but my experiences, thoughts or hopes must be captured in words, my personal amber, to be fully realized. Sharing is an important part of writing, of life. Sharing with others expands the experience. Publishing is a most gratifying experience, to share with others your "take" on something. Writing and publishing make a wonderful marriage, but writing in and of itself can stand alone and enrich the writer.
>Hm. Writing and being read are two different things. I know I have no intention of sharing some things I've written with the world—but I also aim to write things to be read.
But I also write things just for my own enjoyment.
If I recall correctly, I only started sharing my writing because I had to entertain a younger girl and she was curious. It snowballed from there; I attended TINY private high schools, and my stories were passed around my peers and their parents.
It was only when that happened, and folks were begging me for more to read, that I even got comfortable with the idea of letting people at large read my work.
If that hadn't happened, I suspect I'd still just be writing fiction for the fun of it. I also suspect I never would've gotten the nerve to try freelance writing—my current job.
>I started writing as a hobby years ago. Isn't that the reason most writer started because they simply love to write? I didn't even consider publication until I finished by first book. After that I couldn't keep it to myself. Once the words are on paper they should be shared so the rest of the world can have a chance at appreciating the art.
However, writing in any form is quite useful. For one thing, it improves our vocabulary, sharpens our skills, and creates a form of break for our minds after a long day in the non-writing world.
Now I seem to be in it for the long haul. Writing and publishing definitely go together. That doesn't stop me from writing just for fun. It never will. In a perfect world we would all be published. Imagine the smorgasbord of variety that would offer.
>I write to keep my life in perspective by journaling. I blog to share insight and most of all I write because I have a story to tell. I am an artist and writing is a form of creation. Most of all I'm writing my memoir to help myself and I recognize it will help others. So, yes publishing is my ultimate goal.
>Dear Cloth Dragon,
May God continue to give you healing. Some of us have such a challenging journey through life. But when you roar, your fire will light up the world.
Why I write: Because my protagonists have something to tell the world. About their own journey through life. Whether or not I want to be published, they do!
And yes, writing seems to be the only thing I'm really good at, so I guess it's my gift and I need to work at it. And gifts are given to be shared, like all art (Ted Cross, you mentioned art)–to enrich the lives of other people.
So I did the contest thing, which I might do again with a short story or something. And I do the blog thing. With a view to getting published. Which won't happen unless I get some traction with revision! The revision monster is roaring, and I need to roar back at it.
>I used to write for the pure pleasure of it, whenever I could. Now I am a professional writer with no other source of income, and writing is what puts food on the table for the kids and keeps a roof over their heads. And I still enjoy it just as much.
>I don't think you have to be published to call yourself a writer. But for me, publishing is always the aspiration for writing.
>For me writing is creating my own world, seeing inside personalities and walking where I want to be. It is the polishing until my work shines and that is my joy.
To be published would be wonderful but the writing is what I love – and so, after finishing one novel I fall immediately into building another.
>I dealt with this issue last year. I've been writing novels for 12 years. When I had my second child, I took a year off. The pull to write wouldn't leave me alone.
But after battling the ups and downs of rejections, I asked God to show me His will for my writing. If it was for my own enjoyment and a hobby or if I was to pursue publication. Either way, I surrendered to His will.
He made it quite clear I was to purse publication. I now have a writing mentor and two literary agents just requested my full manuscript. It might be months, it might be ten more years, but I know God will open the doors when His time is right.
In the mean time, I'm honing my craft and learning all I can, so that when He opens that door, I'll be ready.
>Your sports analogy is a very good one. I think writing for the majority of people, like sports, ends up being a hobby, because after dabbling a bit in publication efforts, many people are daunted by how much work – how much re-writing, new writing, research, networking and platfrom-building is required – without ANY guarantee. It weeds out those not totally devoted (and talented), just as with sports.
And I absolutely believe that a spiritual calling to write can be fulfilled without publication, through the smaller but no less impactful world of blogging and articles, and even maybe in a tiny percentage still via letters/correspondence. What I find on blogs is often as helpful, inspiring, beautiful, heart-wrenching, enlightening, and entertaining as what I've found in books and in some ways superior because you can form relationships and have continuing conversations with other bloggers that you very rarely ever can with authors.
I still pursue publication, but I have a very long-term approach to it. I realize I'm not of publishable quality yet, but with each year, with each book I write and revise, with every critique I receive and conference I attend and connection (e.g. friend) I make, I'm slowly inching my way closer. And the process is every bit as fulfilling, I am convinced, as publication will ever be.
>Can writing be a hobby? Two words: fan fiction. No one makes money off fan fanfiction (unless you swap out some names and try to sell it, as some have with varying – though never noteworthy -success.)
Is there value in writing for reasons other than commercial publication, such as writing a blog? Yes. Fan fiction has brought me a circle of friends tighter than I've ever known in a community where writing moves faster than (though is usually not of the same quality) published books. I love these woman I write with and I love reading their writing and showing mine off and obssessing about the subject we all zeroed in on.
Yes, I'd like to be published. I'm working on that, but I'm happy to churn out a fun little piece about someone else's characters to squee about in the mean time.
>I write because it's just there. I don't know how to not write. Whether my audience is God, self, one other person, a handful of people, or (someday?) a great many people, I write because some things can't stay inside, and other things can't be forgotten.
Publication? Such forces are too far beyond my control for me to think long on them and remain sane. I work to write so well that I may merit publication beyond the blogsphere. My writing and I belong to the Lord. If it pleases Him, He will see me published. If He sees me published, I will work all the harder to merit such favor.
>What a thought-provoking question!! I know that I've been blessed with a talent for writing and editing. However, I haven't yet discovered how God wants me to use that talent. Maybe he wants me to be published someday…but maybe not. For now, time will tell.
And yes, I'd personally love to have a book published, although I don't know what I would write. 🙂
>For me, I don't feel I HAVE to write…I do, however, truly enjoy telling a story a reader can get lost in (and maybe make them sleep with the light on). I also believe that talent is not the only key to publishing success…we've all read books that left us scratching our heads, wondering how on EARTH the author could possibly have a book on the shelf! Just like other parts of life–getting that dream job, landing that big promotion, or even finding the love of your life–getting published involves simple luck and timing. That's why it's important to take all those rejections in stride, continue to improve one's craft, and keep sending out those queries! Thank you for the opportunity to comment…
>Writing as a hobby to be read by those in your own circle and writing hoping to be published for the masses are two different dreams. Some write for personal fulfillment alone. Others write for pesonal fulfillment,recognition and in hopes of earning a living doing what we love. There is value in all writing and that value is determined by the writer. I write because it satisfies my itch to be creative. The process of writing and striving to be published is challenging and gives me an opportunity to learn a new skills. Getting published is one of the rewards for the hard work and perseverance.
>Doesn't matter if I ever got published, I have to write. It's either that or I'd have to see a shrink. 🙂
Seriously, before I came back to writing, I was close to seeing a therapist. My husband has seen a huge different in my overall being since I started writing everyday.
>I enjoy writing. I don't enjoy dealing with the business-y stuff. It seems like publishing and writing do go together naturally like PB&J since I would like to get my work out to the right audience. I also will be the first to admit that when it comes to marketing, distribution, proofreading and all that other good stuff, I'm not the person to do it.
>Nice article, thanks for the information.
>Jane Kurtz, children's author, spoke to my class the first year I was a teacher. She also compared being a published author to sports – actually, to getting drafted in the NFL. I had enjoyed writing for as long as I could hold a pencil. Seeing her up there, a regular person from my town (well, not so regular. She grew up in Ethiopia as a missionary kid and SHE was published), but a real person, not some celebrity, sparked a flame in the writer candle in my heart. I became inspired to write and to share that writing and to see my words in print, in big and small ways. The blog boosts skills and confidence while marching on to bigger things, I hope.
>I've known a few writers who were content to write in their own little bubble and didn't seem to care if they made a connection with readers. In my mind, writing is connected to publishing because writing is ultimately about communicating, sharing. If you recite your poem or prose in an empty room, what's the point? Do you just write for yourself?
>Even if I knew I would never be published, I would still write. But if I am published, it would be a dream come true and it's not like I can ever stop hoping for the dream to come true.
>I wonder about those like Emily Dickinson…..clearly getting published was not a goal of hers, yet she had the talent.
How many are like that today?
On a different note….I wonder how many do have the talent and want to get published, yet find themselves unable to because they don't fit the ideological world view of the publisher.
I am speaking primarily of literary journals; since many are published by universities, I find the lack of diverse voices in said publications to be troubling. Isn't a university supposed to be a bastion of free speech?
Unless one simply assumes that there is no one capable of print-worthy short fiction who holds views contrary to the average college student or professor….
And since these journals are where agents are said to scout talent, and one of the few places where short fiction is available, does this not represent a threat to American letters which has gone unreported for far too long?
>Part of my desire to be published is the wish to see my name on the cover of a book and to have my work legitimized. I want to know I'm good enough to accomplish this. Of course, the more I learn about publishing, the more I learn it's not always about technical skill, but whether your book also fits the market. Still, it's a dream.
The other part of me really likes creating stories and would like to make a living at it. Of course, I've also learned that very few writers can support themselves through writing even if they are successful otherwise, but as I said, it's still a dream.
And yes, to me, seeking publication does seem like a natural result of producing so much content.
I do feel a calling to try to be published, but I'm not sure if that means I will be. Only time will tell, and I think that even if I never succeed, there's something I must learn in the attempt. Either way, I know I'm called to write, even if only God and I see the words.
>I'm a technical/business writer but also a (very modestly published) creative non-fiction/fiction writer. My goal is to have a novel commercially published, but I also very much enjoy writing my blog. It's something I've only done in the last three months, but I write everyday, and it's very nice to know that someone is reading what I write.
>For me, writing and publishing do go together. I first began writing with the intention that other people would read my writing. That meant publishing, somehow. At the time all I could think of was books in a bookstore, or magazines at a news stand. Eventually I broadened my understanding about what being published meant. I still don't have that book (or books) bearing my name in a bookstore, but my work has been published. My short story has only sold three copies on Kindle, but that's three more than would have read it based on the many rejections from magazines. Hopefully soon that will be as true for my books—although hopefully with more sales than that.
>If I cannot write, I cannot sleep. Writing = dreams, life.
>I write primarily to understand things. And once I discover something or find a way to capture it in words and examine it, then I want to share that with others. A huge part of writing for me is communicating.
I don't have to be professionally published for that, I just want people to commune with me in trying to understand something.
So, I keep blogs and I self-publish, as well as continuing to strive for traditional publication.
>There were a lot of questions in this blog entry…! But generally:
Sure, there's lots of great reasons to write without being published. Blogging, journals, poetry, letters – you can write any format simply for the joy of it, without tying the writing process to publishing and approval. If you break that link and find validation in other ways, it may actually improve your writing overall by removing some extra pressure.
However, that said, I tend to see writing for a living much as Katherine described, above – writing is ultimately for communication. Communication implies a two way street. The most effective way to achieve such an exchange with the most readers is via publishing.
>Some wonderful and thoughtful answers here. I enjoyed reading them.
I write for myself because it's fun and it challenges me. I write for others because I have something to share and I hope and believe there is an audience for my voice. It's a peak moment when you have a manuscript accepted but me much of the joy is in the journey. I love the writing. I even love the business of revising. I love being part of a critique group. I am getting ready to query an agent (since I am genre jumping and I feel I need one.) That part – the querying and the promoting….well, not so much fun. But it has to be done. Write on!
>I like the sports analogy.
For many years I viewed writing as a hobby–the same way I viewed tennis. One day I realized no matter how many lessons I took, how much I played, how many hours I hit to a ball machine or backboard, I would never have the opportunity to win Wimbledon. Tennis is my hobby.
Writing, however doesn't limit my dreams, it fuels them. I no longer view writing as a hobby, I view it as my passion. I blog to express myself–my thoughts, feelings and ideas–and maybe they might help someone else know she's not alone in the insecurities all writers feel from time to time.
Unlike tennis, with writing there is always that possibility that one day… maybe, if the stars are perfectly aligned and my craft is polished enough and I don't give up, I might be published. It could happen. The dream remains.
I can only hope my writing is good enough to become my legacy when I am no longer on this earth.
>These are questions I think about all the time and I don't really have answers to. I guess if we decide to write a novel, we all think we are potentially in the big league and can get published. It's delusional, but I think you need that delusion in order to sit down and do it. And I don't think it's a waste of time to write novels if they never get published–it's a great way to distill your life, experiences, insights etc into something that has meaning for you and for other people. But….if I don't get published (in fiction) in the next couple of years, I think I'll probably move on and concentrate on other types of writing.
>I was a hobby writer, but then I did a creative writing class, just once a week over 12 weeks. I had a little fun story that I was messing around with and I expanded it to use with the exercises. When I had my evaluation I went in thinking, finally someone will give me unvarnished feedback and not say nice things to make me feel good like my friends. Instead she told me to bring it up to novel length and get an agent, because one of the big boys might take it.
Now the course has finished and I'm six months down the line, I suspect maybe she was massaging my ego to give me confidence, but nonetheless I can't quite let go of the dream. Maybe she was overpositive and told all the students the same thing, but if I don't try, I'll never know, and I could surely do with a little extra money to help with the mortgage.
Anyone else been wound up and pointed at a target like a clockwork mouse?
>It seems that there is often a difference between writers of fiction and writers of non-fiction.
My wife, for instance, writes beautiful, moving novels. The fact that she is not published seems to bother her very little. Her friends and family rave about her writing, and she is very pleased with this.
I, on the other hand, write non-fiction with the mindset of an entrepreneur. I write because I see a need and am seeking to fill it. I would never write if I thought no one would read my work. My wife writes because her soul demands it. It is her passion and her joy.
I do not think that either mindset is better than the other, but are certainly destined to produce very different results.
>Sorry but a footballer is nothing like a writer. There is only one reason to write, unless you are simply writing a private diary, and that is to be read. Many write as a hobby – perhaps not expecting to get published – but few write expecting never to be read, in my humble opinion. I think the distinction must come between traditional publishing and all other ways of getting people to read your words. I commit my words to paper (or screen) because I have something to say to the world not because I want to keep them hidden in some desk drawer like half eaten mints.
I believe everyone really wants to be 'published' in their heart of hearts but maybe many of us are just not good enough! But maybe we are good enough to be read by someone, somewhere…
>To me writing something that's never read is to miss a step. I liked Tom's analogy to cooking food that's never eaten. I definitely gain a great deal through the process of writing–growth, understanding, skill–but I always imagine that someone will ultimately read what I've written. C'mon, I have something to SAY.
Now, that doesn't mean it has to be traditional publishing. I think it can be just as satisfying to write for your children, your parents, your spouse, your church family, etc. The way I look at it, writing is communicating and communication needs an ear on the other end.
>I persevere with writing because I believe that with every novel I write and edit and re-write, I'm honing my skill and learning to be a publishable fiction writer. I'm now glad no-one published my first novel because it was nowhere near good enough. I'm currently working on my fourth and my confidence has come on leaps and bounds. This one will be the one I can market with confidence. But it's a long, tough apprenticeship and I refuse to allow the spectre of possibly never getting published to spoil my wonderful life. Bottom line is I'd much rather write novels than do suduko!
>When I first started writing, the two were linked to me. I thought that to be a writer meant I needed to pursue being published. But, as time passes, I find I write because I love it. I love crafting sentences, creating word images, connecting emotionally with the written word. It's a form of worship for me. So now I write because I love it – and if one day that leads to being published, that's great. But I won't stop writing. I've fallen in love.
>I would like to get published one day but publishing isn't the entire focus of my writing. I've kept journals since I was a teenager. I've amused myself and friends with fan fiction. And I love writing in my various blogs. To me it doesn't matter if I share my writing with one or one million. I'm happy just to have one person say "Hey, I really loved that story". Sure, I'd love to trade in my full time day job for a writing career. But even if that never happens I'll be happily typing away at my computer and sharing it with whoever wants to see.
>I do believe that the words have a life of their own…apart from me, they are a part of the creative process. Whether I become published or not, the words will find their space in this universe once they're strewn together in a story, a poem, a reflection and etc. So for me, I may not be able to separate myself from being a writer and being affirmed through publication but I certainly can separate the power of the words and their impact to the universe.
>Expanding on the sports analogy, an unpublished author is like a college/amateur athlete who is seriously working on their sport, but not being paid for it. Just a thought.
I believe each writer would want to see their words published, whether it be a book, in a magazine, newspaper, or a say, a speech…blog…etc.
When I first started writing, all I thought about was big time publication. As I evolved as a writer, something happened – queries, rejections, requests, and more queries. About 5 years ago, I tried to quit. I went through that…I’m going to die if I don’t get published thing. I tried hard to quit. I couldn’t. I walked away for about a month but couldn’t help myself…I came back. I’ve grown since that tantrum. I’m still writing my novels, but I’m taking the time to learn the craft as well. I write in a difficult historical era to sell, so it’s got to be polished. I’m also having a history article published this spring and I celebrate that…my first paying gig!
I don’t think that I will ever quit writing. I’ve always heard – do what you love. I get a sense of peace in my writing space that I don’t get anywhere else. I will keep writing, published or not…it’s my vocation.
Writing also exercises our language skills. We expand our knowledge when we thoroughly research our topics. This entire process keeps our brains toned.
>This is a really interesting post!
I write because the stories that come to me teach me something about myself that I generally need to work on. So I figure if I never get published I'm still gaining valuable lessons through my writing.
Will I eventually get out there and try and publish? Yes, but only because I think if I'm learning something from these stories, perhaps others can benefit from them too. I leave it to God to decide if that's in the plan or not. Figure He'll put the roadblocks up if it's not, or open the doors if it's meant to be. But I won't know for sure unless I try, right? Since He's not in the habit of giving me direct orders.
>I prefer to look forward and keep the excitement that comes from hope. The word hobby is so diminishing. I look at the analogy of the big leagues and think of some of my other passions I had in youth–to be a singer/songwriter, for example. That's the kind of dream I'm willing to relegate to a hobby. Not writing.
>I remember making an inner declaration in the 3rd grade to become a published author, with my name on a book. I could and should have given up long ago. It didn't seem to be happening, but then this April it did. My name is now on a book. You can type my name in on Amazon and there it appears. And I didn't publish myself as I was so tempted to do at times. I just kept working at it. But I'm still not satisfied. I want more. I have more stories to tell and more books to have my name on.
That said, I also write for my own personal enjoyment. When you tell someone that you write for a hobby that look at your strangely and wonder why you'd do something like that and not get paid for it. That bugs me. I could tell people I scrapbook, play in a band, garden, quilt, or run and those would all be acceptable outlets, but write? So I'm trying to be more bold and less ashamed about my creative outlet and just own it! 🙂
>Vocationally, not vacationally. hahaha. That's what happens when I type before coffee.
>I think the comparison between professional athletes and published authors is erroneous. Professional athletes move on from academic teams to the big leagues because of skill and raw talent. Writers move on to be published authors due to far more subjective circumstances. Ever since your comparison, Rachel, to the Shark Tank television show and the publishing industry I've realized how subjective the process truly is. I lament the circumstances of writers in the past who within themselves held the kernel to some epic, amazing and life-changing stories we'll never get to hear because they gave up on publishing. Thank God for the times we live in and the advent of electronic publishing. We can publish the stories that speak through us. We can finally be true outlets to something far more profound than merely what's sellable.
As to you question, whether writing can be a hobby if you're not published…I suppose it comes down to why I write. It's not a choice, it's something that's always been there. I was three years old and sitting at a desk with paper and crayons "writing" like mommy. I believe the story teller serves a purpose in our modern society as important, if not moreso, than the story tellers around the fire circles of our ancestors. What that purpose is, will vary for everyone. But each is integral to the health of our communal consciousness. We keep our compasses directional, and that's due in part to the stories we tell or read. Do you remember what life was like the first time you read Thoreau, or Steinbeck? How you felt reading Of Mice and Men? Jane Eyre? Did Elizabeth marrying Mr. Darcey change your life?
Whether or not a big six New York company decides I'm sellable enough to invest in, or not, I care less and less every day. As the stories I tell become more and more important to myself, and I believe, to those who read them I've realized I serve a purpose higher than meeting some business's investment model. Why should I call it a hobby, when I can call it a business and be as proud of myself as I should be? Publishing takes on average a year to get a book printed and released. I may work for ten years to get that story written exactly how I want it. Who's contribution is more valuable? The answer is changing, and thank God for that.
>For me, writing and being published are two very separate things – I love to write, I don't love being published (and I have actually been published, even though in small language market). I see publishing mainly as a way to get the finished stories out of my way (ie if they aren't published, they keep nagging me for years, but when they're published, they are out of sight, out of mind). And it is a sort of challenge, too – to get the guts to send stories out, to be subjected to scrupulous editors and unforgiving (or, as the matter of fact, indifferent) audience.
Then again, I have never had much trouble being published (again, small language factor), so probably I'd think differently if I would have to fight my way through.
>I took some time this morning to think on this one. My thoughts just keep gravitating back to this one image. I’m on a boat on the water (one of the purest feelings for me…I feel most alive at these times). What feels most natural and comfortable for me is to guide the boat home. To stay there. Write for myself and only myself. But the boat is moving me to an unfamiliar island. It’s exhilarating and terrifying all at once. My hands are on the wheel. I still have control over where I guide this boat…home or to the island. The waves are pushing me to the island, as well as other hard to define sources. So for now I’m riding the waves knowing I always have a home to return to.
I’m beginning to understand it’s not so much about which destination I choose or where I’m headed as learning to enjoy being on the water.
>Well I can't do anything else vacationally. Really, I've tried. My brother and his family went camping and played charades by the fire. One catagory was "jobs Aunt Missy has had."
I've had three paid coaches. Both pointed out problems with my craft, which is what I paid them to do, but both said I had voice and smooth style that was very readable and that could not be learned–you just have it or you don't.
I have a following on FB just hearing about my day. My friends' friends, Friend me (hahaha that was clear as mud)and chase me down at church to tell me they've missed my posts when I stay off Facebook.
So vocationally, all my eggs are in the writing basket.
>When I was a child, my father was an abusive alcoholic and my mother took out all her unhappiness on us. I can't count the number of times she told us how wonderful her life could have been if we'd never been born. I have missing years in my memory and a few memories of meeting people who were sure we'd been friends for some time. They never came up with a punchline so I tend to believe them. My uncle was convicted of child molestation years later, so I suspect that might be the cause of some of my missing memories.
Books helped give me a world outside my own. They helped me realize that there were other ways to live and that it was my choice to be like my parents or to choose a path of my own. I read and wrote incessantly to make my way through. I can't live without writing.
Publication is because I've always wanted to offer that same hope to others. (Husband was able to point out that all my stories can be whittled down to the make-your-own-family idea. Now that I can see it, I'm working on making that a little less obvious 🙂
>I am one of those who believe that writing is the ministry God has called me to. God has given me both a desire and a gift for writing. If I write, but don't share my writing with the world, I'm not fulfilling the ministry God has given me.
>Words are powerful creatures. They carry so much weight–in our thoughts, in conversation, in written form. I believe we're all "writers" really, whether or not some may even realize it or be seeking publication.
I knew at a young age that I wanted to write books. Naturally, I thought it a logical course of action to pursue publication and to view it as a career choice. I took other detours along the way, but I always continued to put words on paper or tap on the old keyboard.
It's something deeply intrinsic, this need of mine to write, as others might attest to. Being a Christian, I believe that we are all given spiritual gifts and talents. It's up to us to use them wisely (for His ultimate glorification) or squander them uselessly.
In addition, for those of us seeking publication, we know we have to take our craft seriously as any career professional would. This includes earning a real paycheck for a real job.
Have a great weekend, Rachelle!
>My writing is NOT a hobby. I keep a file with my manuscripts journey to agents and editors, for backup in case of a tax audit.
>I think most of us are really hobbyists anyway, since even the published authors don’t make enough money to live on, but I can see where it could be a pure hobby. One of the great joys of writing a novel is that we as authors get to inhabit the world we create. Readers can too, but it is more vivid for the author. We could do that in our daydreams, but writing the plot encourages us to explore the world we’ve created. In that situation, we’re writing for an audience of one—me.
When you start to talk about a calling to write, there is no way to separate writing from publishing. God doesn’t call someone to write, just for the writing to sit unread on their computer any more than he calls people to salvation just for them to sit in the pews at church. But you’re right, that writing might be better published through a blog or a newsletter. Think of all the playwrights who have created many plays that have been performed for only the seventy-five people at their churches or the ten kids in their youth group. There’s more hero worship among Christians than there ought to be, but one of the things I’ve noticed about God is that he often sends his best preachers to preach to the smallest groups of people. I’ve noticed that with writers as well. Some of the best writers I know have names that if I were to mention them, it is possible that no one reading this would recognize them.
But that’s not to say that there isn’t a need for the well recognize authors. I think we need authors we can all recognize and discuss, but it is rare that the stuff that appeals to a more general audience can compete with the stuff that is written for a more specific audience. Just like the Rob Bell discussion recently. His book isn’t all that great, but it triggered discussion so that some very well written articles about hell are appearing across the Internet.
The problem we face as writers is how to get our words from our computer hard drives into the minds of our audience. It isn’t so tough if it is something that can be said through a blog, a church bulletin, or a denominational paper, but what if the audience is more widespread than that or if we have more to say than that? Naturally, we look to publishers to provide the mechanism to reach that audience, but publishers aren’t interested in small audiences.
>I believe my talents were given to me to be used. So I write even though I've never sold anything and I paint even when sales aren't all that great. The act of writing and the act of painting is my service. The least I can do.
Do I expect to be commercially published? Not anymore. There are many rewards for the writer and that publication is only one of them. It may not be one of the rewards for me, but I will keep on writing.
Do I foresee ever giving it up, whether or not I'm published?
I may as well foresee myself giving up eating or sleeping. Or breathing.
>Throughout my career, I've written for a variety of reasons.
When I was single, I wrote to support myself, and so I wrote whatever someone needed me to write. When I was a new mom, I wrote in my journal to document our family's life. Today, I write because I am called to write.
Our Lord gave me one job: to write. He didn't say to publisher or to write a book that will save thousands of soul in one fell swoop. He told me to write as I know how to write.
I can write a strong sentence and a strong paragraph, two things a writer loves to see an editor mark as "good!" I can do that.
And since I've been doing that, publishing opps have been finding me. The Lord is taking care of the rest, I just need to write that sentence, paragraph, chapter. That's a great arrangement, and I'm happy for it!
>I think this is a very interesting question that I hadn't really considered before. There are many things I write that I have absolutely no intention on ever publishing: some short fictions, microfiction and some poetry. I wrote them for fun or for exercise, but never with the expectation that I would market them anywhere.
Then there's the two novel projects, fantasy and urban fantasy/supernatural, that I know I want to publish, the latter in particular. The former is my first Original Idea that I want to see on Barnes and Nobles bookshelves next to other authors I admire, like George R.R. Martin and R.A. Salvadore. The second was an idea that I gained after reading several different types of urban fantasy and being disappointed that I hadn't seen several things in the genre. I wanted to expand the genre with the ideas I've come up with.
So publishing for those works were always in the plan. They're written in such a way that they expect editing and are written to a specific audience. The other, play-around stuff? They're probably garbage and I don't care that they are; they're for me and no one else.
So to answer your question, I think it depends on the work. Some works are written, expecting to be published while others will never make it out of the first draft stage.
>For me, 'serious' writing is a way of clarifying my thinking; it forces me to examine ideas. That has value to me whether it's published or not. There is also what I call 'recreational writing' – much like telling a funny story, albeit a long one. I do that for fun.
For some, publication is a validation (which should not be necessary). For others, it's an ego trip in which they feel compelled to educate the world.
>It seems that I can only process things through writing. A writer is who I am. But it wasn't until I had a life changing event that I realized I should share my writing with others who may benefit from my experiences (whether through blogging or publishing or another avenue). And the more I write my non-fiction work, the more passion I have to share it with others.
But I continue to write just for my own benefit in my journals. Even if I never get published or no one ever reads my work again, I'll still write. (hope that makes sense…. I've been up watching the royal wedding festivities!)
>I used to write under a pseudonym, and at least half of the satisfaction I took in writing was in how it was received. It was difficult to walk away from the level of popularity I'd achieved and start over, when no one knew my "name" (the old pseudonym).
Perhaps it is the Buddhist in me, but I find more satisfaction now in what I do because I have stopped looking to others (the external Buddha) for validation, and simply look within. My writing has improved vastly since then.
I still look to be published/read, but the overwhelming reason for that is purely monetary: I am in a profession where we work very hard, physically, for little money. I'm getting older, and I'd like not to beat up my body so much and replace that income I'm making with writing income. That would enable me to make a living *and* do exactly what I enjoy most on this earth.
>Great questions! For me, the two are kinda linked to be honest as far as desire, but is there value in writing if I don't ever see my name on the cover of a book. Absolutely.
By writing, I am keeping my creative juices flowing and being an example for my children. It becomes a lesson in our homeschool and gives me an outlet and passion all my own. Through writing, I have made wonderful friendships both IRL and online and have fallen even more in love with the written word, not only reading more myself but setting that example for my children, too, who see that reading is a good and worthwhile hobby.
So yes, writing just for the sake of writing would still have merit. But, I would still love to be published 🙂
>Honestly, I've tried to quit writing. And once when I quit for like ten minutes, or maybe it was a month, I missed it terribly. That was when I finally realized I'm not writing for publication. Don't get me wrong, I want to be published. But it's no longer why I write.
Have a wonderful weekend, Rachelle and everybody.
>I didn't know I was meant to be published until someone told me so. I wrote my first novel as a stress reliever, let someone read it for fun, and everything escalated from there. Is MY need to write linked to getting published? We shall see what comes of this adventure…
>I am a pre-published novelist. I believe when Jesus said to occupy until he returns that means to keep working at our occupation, keep learning about life and about Him.
Writing is how I learn. I have to take many books and combine them to learn. (Like my obsession with personalities.)
I use my own combined version for my characters.
>Publication is a great joy for me, Rachelle, but, prior to any thought of that, I write for an imaginary audience, people who love stories and travel with me to far places and new realms buoyed by the magic of words.
>I do know hobbyist writers. I have met people on the internet that write without the pursuit of publication. Some of these people do NaNo every year and never look back at the manuscript. Some enjoy fan fic and write just for the fun of creating stories with their favorite characters.
I am not one of them. I would like to be published but even if I knew I wouldn't ever make that goal I would still write.
>I read this comment, or something to its nature, from writers a lot:
If I don't get published, then all of this has been for nothing.
That comment makes me sad.
Because writing has so much value apart from publication.
I can't tell you how much I've learned about discipline and passion and abandon and surrender and trust and God and myself from this thing called writing. A publishing contract (or not) doesn't make the gift of writing any more or less valuable.
>Words are worthless if not read.
Publication provides the best avenue for guaranteeing a readership beyond your immediate family.
Unlike most writers, I don't write from some innate desire or because I cannot not write. I write because I have stories I believe worthy to be written. And for me, writing and publication go hand in hand.
>Writing is intrinsic. Those people who would consider themselves to be writers have something inside of them that processes the world in which they live through writing. Granted some people have sharpened their skill so much that they do not have to meet with "inspiration" to write. But, the way one interacts with life through writing, that comes from the identity of the person.
All writing is meant to be read and/or experienced. Whether it be for the purpose of remembering something for the future, or to flesh out a thought or insight it is meant for someone's eyes. (a diary, history book, lecture, poem, play, etc) Often, it's just for the writer. Other times, it is absolutely for someone else.
Many writers do not write with their audience in mind. They write to express that part of them that is processing life in general. Others, they have a sense of their audience and write to them. For us to become better, we absolutely cannot live without someone who can read us and challenge us to become better. Yet…
Writing in itself gives meaning to those who write. It fulfills like nothing else does. For many, it's our drug of choice. Many of us who claim ourselves to be writers quote Rilke in our hearts:
“This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity….”
Rainer Maria Rilke ‘Letters to a Young Poet’
And so, we write, not because we expect to publish, but because we must.
>I write because I have to. Writing is an outlet for frustration, documenting your history, and therapy. For me, there is satisfaction in seeing words on paper and finding just the right word to convey a meaning.
As an author, I do not publish everything I write. I've got a footlocker full of manuscripts which will never see ink on a printed book page. But what I choose to have published is what I believe is my best work and something someone else would be interested in reading. (read commercially viable)
I blog to help other writers know they are not alone in their struggles. I also help with editing rough drafts and showing other writers pitfalls which we all fall into at one time or another.
>I write because I must write. What is inside of me must find its voice.
Anything else – publication, fame or obscurity – is not for me to decide. Call it what you will, I believe the rest is God's Will.
Judy, South Africa
>I will write until I'm dead. I HAVE to, there is no I want or I don't want. I've been writing for 25 years (I'm only 33) and it wasn't until 2010 that I actually thought about getting published. I never thought about publishing before b/c writing has always been for me, b/c I had these characters in my head who had to have their stories told & it didn't matter if other people read it or not. I've known since I was a child that writing is what I do, it's a part of me, it's who I am. Being published would just be an added extra.
I don't write for any reason other than…that's what I do. I'd never let another person read my writing (other than essays in school & random blog posts) until last year when I got involved in a critique group. So, perhaps some people write with publishing in mind,to win accolades or whatever. I write because I have no other choice. It's either that or cut off my ear. 😉
>Writing is about expression. Whether it comes out in fiction or not. Many painters never sell a painting, but that doesn't mean they should stop their masterpiece. So no, I don't think a person should stop writing if they don't want to be published.
Publishing to me isn't about my name on the cover of a book, it is about getting paid to do something I love to do. I have a degree in media and marketing, so for me to seek an agent, I know I am ready to take on that amount of work. In my opinion, getting published and promoting your novel is much more work than writing is. So for anyone who is not willing to have your novel slashed with red, or be on the road to do book signings, or have the pressure of finishing by a deadline, publishing may not be best.
Personally, I just think it would be great to get to share 'my' world with 'the' world. If publishing is the best means of doing that, then I am headed that direction. 🙂
>I can only liken the experience of writing a book & wanting to see it published to pregnancy & childbirth. You spend months (maybe even years) growing this germ of an idea into something that has shape, something that has life, something that has a name, an identity. Then you labor over bringing it into the world, crying over the pain it causes you. The urge to bring it to publication is very much like that urge to push. Undeniable. Useless to fight against. Because you want everyone to see just how beautiful your baby is, how much time & work & effort you put into it. You want hold it in your hands and smile as you present it to the whole wide world. This is my creation. My baby. It was hard. But it was so worth every tear. Every extra pound. Every frustration. So come take a look!
>I think as people get older it becomes more unrealistic for them to become a pro-sprotsman. It's obvious–weaker joints, they can't run as fast. But as writers age, they improve their craft, they expand their life experiences. There is never a point when a writer says, "Oh, I can't do this anymore, I'm too old." It's one of the few things in life where there still feels like there's hope even if you hit a few setbacks along the way.
>I don't know if I'm meant to be published someday, but I know that I'd like to be. But I started writing just because I liked writing, not so I could call myself a published author. Even if I never get published, I can't imagine giving up writing altogether. For me writing is an escape, because I get to create my own world and characters who often end up saying and doing things that surprise me.
>I write to communicate. Communication is a two-way thing–if you aren't being read, you aren't communicating. Because the medium in which I seem to be most gifted is book-length fiction, communication requires being published.
Of course I've written plenty of things over the years that weren't intended for publication. That kind of writing also has its place. But when I write a novel, it's a huge investment in communicating with an audience, and I want to be heard.
>I can't see comparing sports to writing. For me when you write a novel you are creating art. It is hard work, and the last thing I want is to spend years on a piece of art that no one will look at. I cannot separate the writing from the need to have it examined.
>Such and interesting question! When I started writing my first novel I never let myself think as far as publishing. I just knew I had to write it – I felt "called", I felt I'd made a commitment. So I spent a decade working on that on and off before I finished a draft I was happy with and decided to see what I could figure out about this whole publishing thing. Now, funnily enough, I think it's harder. Having had one book published changed things and made it harder to write just for myself. I became more aware of a global faceless audience and less contented to do the hard work of writing simply because it was my passion and "it was good".
>I appreciate your question. I am an unpublished writer. In fact, it took me awhile even to adopt the moniker. Mostly out of genuine respect. But also because there had once been a time when I thought I had to be published before I could assume it. I dont believe that anymore, but that doesnt mean I dont intend on being published. It think it has to do with your need to be read thing. To write and never have it read would be to leave it unfinished, like cooking a feast only to throw it away.
>One of the things that started my writing was a goal to write a book for my kids. I didn't know I would love writing so much when I first started. Now, I am working toward the big leagues, but I have already accomplished my goal. I have written books that my kids can read. and I still love writing, even if I never do get to be "famous" or whatever the "big destination" is. I'll still try to get there, but if I don't I haven't lost or missed anything.
>I think many people, myself included don't have a choice. I have written stories since I first picked up a pencil and I will write until the day I no longer can.
As far as publishing, I'm grateful for today's technologies which allow us to get our stories out there through self-publishing.
I may not be Hemingway, but some one out there will enjoy my work and that's very satisfying.
We write because we have to whether we get published or not.
>Even if we never achieve book publication, there is still lots of satisfaction in being published in magazines, compilations, and even greeting cards.
And yes, there is also value in blogging. Always so wonderful to hear when something really hits the spot for someone or we can point others to God's Word.
We can do all these things while working towards and hoping for book publication, right?! 🙂
>This is an excellent thought, a worthy question. I am not published, but I know that I am a writer. I know that I am a writer because writing makes me a better person. I know that I am a writer because people tell me quite often how they were transported while reading my writing.
So, for me, the two cannot be linked, because I have no guarantee that I will ever be published, but I have every proof that I will continue to write. And, somehow, be read.