Define Your Reason for Writing
Why Are You Writing?
Have you thought about why you’re writing? Most likely you’re writing because you love it and it makes you happy to bring stories to life. Everyone’s motivation for writing is different, no matter the genre or literary aspirations. You may not have taken the time to think of your creative goals. Why is it important? Because if you don’t define why you’re writing and what you want to do with that writing in the future, you may be led around by the nose and not even realize it. As a creativity coach, I believe writers should decide for themselves what they value about writing and/or becoming a published author. Unfortunately, a large percentage of people become disillusioned by the publishing world when they realize their goals don’t match up with what they’re told they “should” value as a writer.
The writing world is changing, to use a cliché, on a dime. Over the last ten years or more, the publishing landscape has morphed from one way or the highway thinking to a myriad of possibilities and options for the writer who wants to publish their work. Just because the writing world is changing doesn’t mean that organizations or writers themselves embrace the changes. How a writer can navigate this new world without losing their minds is a question worth exploring. If you know what you want and aren’t allowing other people to tell you what you should want, you’ll be a much happier writer.
The Shoulds, Absolutes, Truths & Falsehoods
You may not have given much thought to what the publishing world says you should want. Some messages you might hear include:
- You should aspire to be a New York Times best seller. Maybe. Maybe not. Ask yourself why it is important. Not all New York Times best sellers make oodles of money. Understand why this is important to you if it is at all. There are things you may have to do to reach New York Times best seller status that you’d rather not do.
- You should want to be traditionally published. Perhaps in the old days this was true. Not always true now. There are advantages and disadvantages to traditional publishing.
- You should hate traditional publishing houses and have nothing to do with them. This can be debated. A traditional publishing career is a wonderful fit for some and not for others. Self-publishing can be wonderful and yet it isn’t a fit for everyone.
- You should write anything if there’s enough money attached to it. As long as you’re aware of your motivations and believe you’re happy writing that article/book/whatever for money there’s no problem. If it makes you happy, it’s all good. Pay attention to your satisfaction/happiness level. Is there a book you want to write but you keep putting it off to satisfy a “should”? Maybe your creativity is sinking into the toilet. It could be because you’re continually ignoring your creative desires in favor of more “shoulds”.
- You don’t need an agent. Sometimes you don’t. If you are self-publishing or working with a small publishing house, you probably don’t need one. If you’re trying to break into the traditional publishing houses, you might need one. It ups your odds of a traditional house paying attention to your manuscript if you have an agent. Also, it depends on your skills/knowledge of contracts. Sometimes you’re better off running a publishing contract through a literary lawyer who you pay for advice a single contract at a time. Again, define why you want an agent.
- You must have an agent. False.
- Having an agent will ensure you get a traditional publishing contract. False. Though it can increase your chances, there is absolutely no guarantee. Many times an editor may love your story, but if the marketing department can’t decide where to slot the story you may not get the contract.
- A good book will always find a home with a publishing house. False. Sometimes it won’t. Publishing is a business. If your book is outside the box, the chances are less likely it will find a home. A falsehood bandied about in the publishing world is that editors are looking for fresh and new. What they really mean is fresh but not too fresh or too different. An individual editor may genuinely desire a truly unique story, but that doesn’t mean they can sell it to the powers that be. A twist on the same-ole-same-ole can be a big hit if you find the right editor at the right time and the marketing department believes the publishing house will make good money with the book. Don’t ever assume that there was anything wrong with your book just because it was rejected or didn’t make gobs of money. There’s a very good possibility there was absolutely nothing wrong with your book. Remember there are no absolutes. There could be as many reasons why your book hasn’t been published, as there are stars in the sky.
- You can’t make any money being self-published. Sometimes you can’t and sometimes you can.
- You can’t make any money in traditional publishing (and/or small press). Sometimes you can. Sometimes you can’t.
These points are only a small number of the shoulds and absolutes. Cogitate on these points and use them to help you define why you’re writing and what you wish to get out of it.
What Matters To You?
Questions to consider:
Why do you want to be published? I know this sounds like a no-duh question, but think hard. Do you want to be published so that others can read your work? Do you aspire to make the New York Times Best Seller list? Why? Yeah, I asked that out loud once before. Consider your reasons and make a list. Why do you believe it is important to make a bestseller list? Is it because everyone says it is, or because you value it?
Are you writing for the love of your art and creativity? Do you feel as if something is missing or that your life has less meaning when you aren’t engaging in your creativity? Or could you be just as happy not writing and doing something else where you could make a living? There is nothing wrong with writing and making money, of course, but if you are writing only to make money and aren’t enjoying the endeavor, it may be time to reassess.
The Highway Is Open
Now is a wonderful time to be an author. If you’re going into the writing world with eyes wide open, armed with understanding, you’ll go far. Enjoy the open road!
Copyright Denise A. Agnew
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