Monday, April 25, 2011

Spinning in Place

Was reading Seth Godin's blog last week, and it got me a'thinkin'. Some of us dive into this writing business and others of us daintily touch a toe in the water, but regardless of the speed in which we participate, we have a reason we want to become a writer.
  • Profit
  • Art
  • Fun
I can hear you all the way to here at Lake Murray, South Carolina. You do it for all three. But I'll  bet you my next week's grocery money that one of these is your main priority. When you think of writing, one pops to mind quicker or more often than the others.

When readers email me, I can read between the lines and usually identify how they lean. By far, the majority write for fun. They enjoy writing, reading about it, and talking to others about it. But it's when they fuss about not making money that I have to suggest that they change their outlook. From all indications, they don't want to write if it doesn't stay fun. That's why they don't make money. They only want to do what feels good.

Then there are those who write for art's sake. They suffer for their work. And yes, you suffer, because you write based on your perception of art, regardless of its ability to sell or what the critics say. Therefore, they often do not make enough money to provide a roof over their heads because they aren't cowtowing to commerce and the latest advice on how to self-publish, self-promote or exploit a book.

Then come the profit-makers. Most often these are non-fiction writers, although some vampire and werewolf writers can fall into this category, too. They spot the void or the need, depending on the viewpoint, and pen something that fits.

By now, you're indignant with my interpretation of writing. Have you taken a Briggs Myers or Jung Personality Test to determine how your personality behavior stand in comparison to the masses? Here's an abbreviated version. Here's one a little longer. If you are into this type of self-evaluation, here's the official Myers Briggs Foundation site where you can study it to your heart's content.

In essence, you are a compilation of different personalities, leaning heavier in some directions than others. If you are extremely heavy in one area, you are lacking in others. The heavier trait guides you. On the other hand, if you are balanced and almost equal in all areas, any of the traits can dictate your calling, tugging you in all directions.

Reality check here. If you are in writing for the money, then art suffers. If you are in it for purely the art, fun and profit languish. If you just want to have fun, your income lags.

A job isn't all fun, but you try to land one that makes you happy, with a realistic expectation that something in the professional will be unpalatable. Decide why you write. Decide what it is that dictates your success in the end---critics, money, number of Facebook friends, your family's hugs, an autograph line around the block of your city's bookstore.

Or set goals. Make art your goal for six months as you pen your novel. Make profit your goal for a day a week or two hours a day or three months as you self-promote. Make fun your goal as you strike out on a conference for a weekend or write a piece you've dreamed of or play on your blog for an hour per day.

Energies tug at you in this profession, from all directions, spinning you around. Goals are what keep you standing on your feet.


Susan said...

I like striving for all three, Hope. Good idea. Susan

Barb Hodges said...

I'm with Susan. I love sharing with family and friends, but I also enjoy the mental gymnastics I go through as I write. Making some money would also be very nice.

Hope Clark said...

BUT...doing them all as you like, and doing the feel-good part of them all and stopping before you get to the sweat and blood parts, means you aren't advancing very far in a writing career. It's all about structure, and dealing with the business of writing, whether you like it or not. Many people stop when they get to the unpleasant part and change gears, moving on to something they like more. Thus...spinning.

Lindsay Gage Natale said...

Your blog and site are fantastic! Thank you for the great advice and for encouraging writers to be pai,

Hope Clark said...

Glad to help, Lindsay. Just trying to keep it real...and positive.