Writing for publication is a business, but it is not only a business.
It is a creative endeavor but not only a creative endeavor.
Finding balance between those two truths creates a lot of tension in the writer’s psyche. In fact, it can be paralyzing to both creativity and forward career momentum when the two come into conflict. We assume balance means a 50/50 split in our priorities, but that’s rarely the case. Sometimes we have to subsume one for the other, but even if we don’t one must almost always take precedence. And that might be a temporary situation, or something long term. For instance, most authors will identify with doing revisions they don’t agree with, or believe in, but are necessary to fulfill the contract they are under.
In this situation, the business side of writing takes precedence over the creative side, even if overall the author values creative freedom more highly than career advancement. It’s temporary and if this dissonance between the editor’s view of the story and the author’s persists, it may be followed by the author moving to a new editor, or even a new publisher. However, if the author prioritizes their relationship with this particular editor, or publisher, their income from said publisher, etc. the situation where the creative beliefs of the author are set aside can be an ongoing situation. For some authors this is great, others not so much.
Only we know what is most important to us which then follows, only we can act on that knowledge. The balance I strike might make you terribly unhappy and likewise, what works for you could be what kills my ability to keep writing. So, what we need is not to look at others and see what’s working for them, but to look inside ourselves and ask what is most important to us.
What do you want *most* from your writing. A livable wage? Connection to readers? Being published with a particular publisher? Freedom to tell your heart stories? Anything. Only you know what is most important to you. I need to connect to reader’s hearts, which for me means mine has to be engaged when writing. It’s all about what drives us to write and there are no wrong answers. We’re all unique. Once we identify our key priority in our writing, it will determine our balance between business and creativity. If we do not allow this, we add to the dissonance of our own thoughts and will constantly be chasing some ephemeral goal we can never quite reach.
When I wrote Her Off Limits Prince, it was definitely a book of my heart, with elements that were very important to me to keep. When my editor wanted me to gut about 75% of the story and start the book fresh with the ending as the new beginning, I offered to write a new book and they agreed to give me rights to this one. I wrote the new book, which was accepted with only nominal revisions and indie published Her Off Limits Prince. A win for the publisher, for me and for my creativity. For another author, indie publishing might be too frustrating or time consuming to pursue. While yet another might be totally fine with gutting the book and writing the new story, letting the old one go to the proverbial garbage heap. We’re all different and what works for one, doesn’t work for another.
Let me repeat, looking at someone else’s success to try to figure out your own only works if that someone else shares your priorities and creative strengths (and weaknesses).
Figuring out what is most important to you can take time, trial and error. And it’s not always going to stay the same. What was important to me when I had children living at home changed when my status as an active parent changed. Life changes and so do we.
And with all those changes, let’s keep writing.
Hugs and happy writing,
2 thoughts on “The Business vs. the Creativity of Writing”
The balance between writing as a business and writing as a creative pursuit has been tough and for me, life has been getting in the way – between an injury leading to a mild disability, surgery, getting my Masters, struggling with my evil day time job, which by the way I love and my family – I have been fighting to return to my writing schedule. I admire my writing colleagues who continue to write because I know the life issues as well as creative issues we deal with in our endeavors. I love your books Lucy and look forward to each one. And I view your work as an inspiration
Oh, Mia…I really do know how that is. You know I’ve had long bouts of being unable to write because of personal health issues as well as family stress. It took me a long time to accept that I couldn’t write as much, or as fast as I used to. That the changes in my brain weren’t going away. Then, I slowly started to see that writing a little bit every day got me where I needed to be if I stopped trying be where I used to. Write what you can when you can and don’t pressure yourself to finish a book by a certain date, but let the stories come and what starts as a trickle will turn into a steady stream over time. I’m always happy to hear from you and I’m pretty sure you still have my email. Send me a note there if you want to Zoom, or something. Anyway, know I’m thinking of you and hoping good things for you.