Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Occupy Your Writing.

Why do people choose to write the things that they write? I guess I've always assumed people are compelled to write because they are passionate about their subject matter or intriqued by the specific genres they take on. But I've started to realize the extent to which politics and/or popular culture (the "market") influence first the decision to write in the first place and then the things we choose to write about. It's made me reevaluate my own reasons for writing.

My friend Kellie, who blogs over at Magic in the Backyard, recently wrote a post about the writer's decision to write about "taboo subjects," like sex, war/politics, religion, etc. Subjects that politics and our culture deem "unmarketable," in some way. Her post was encouraging. It was a challenge to writers to write more courageously and transparently, question the boundaries a little bit, and, generally, write stuff that people aren't necessarily hoping you'll write--or telling you to write. 'Cause it's not just sex, drugs, war, and religion, ya know. There's a lot of important things not being published because, as one wise man put it--"sad songs and waltzes aren't selling right now."

Occupy Your Writing.




So here's the rub. On one hand, there's the need to appeal to a wide audience. On the other, the need to break out of our comfort zones--and the status quo. Thousands of writers are rejected by publishing houses across the nation every year. Large publishing houses aren't looking for talent, they're looking for stuff that will make money. Increasingly, unpublished authors are going to Walmart, browsing the best selling books on the shelves there, and going dutifully home to write more of the same in an effort to get their work out there. Meanwhile, the masterpiece they've been working on for years remains locked in a Microsoft Word file. Very probably, anyway.

We all want to be relevant and appeal to a large audience. Nothing wrong with that! But in the effort to sell your product, don't sell yourself short. I guess that's the moral of the story. Don't be afraid to write YOUR STORY, even if it isn't what somebody else is looking for.







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13 comments:

  1. I love this post. Great advice!

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  2. Good point! It's so easy to fall into the trap of writing what is popular and what isn't. Because in reality, we never know what will be the new phase. I mean, I "should" stop writing fantasy because in about a year or so, when I'm done with it, we may be more than likely out of the phase of liking fantasy novels similar to Harry Potter or that one about vampires (my mind is blanking, sorry). Maybe there are "too many" of your type of genre writers out there, but hey...you never know. My vote? Do what you do best - write. Don't change yourself just because it isn't "marketable." Thank you for reminding us about this!

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  3. It should be said that by no means am I casting judgement on what IS popular right now. If your passion is to write fantasy or paranormal romance or what have you, you will bring your own unique flavor to it and it will be the best!

    Thanks for the blog commments, ladies! Keep writing!

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  4. Great advice! I'm graduating high school this year and the reality is that one day in the near future I'll have to become financially independent. However,I don't want to sell out just to pay the bills, because it would ruin why I love writing in the first place. I think it's important to remember that as writers we should love the process of writing, not of publishing. It may take a good deal of will power to hold onto that when our style isn't mainstream or "marketable", but I believe we're a strong breed! My advice, learn to live on Ramen noodles and keep your pen strong!

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  5. Excellent point, Taylor! It's the process that counts!

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  6. I got in a pretty bad argument online about this recently.

    Basically, I made the case that a writer that is passionate about his or her craft should value being read and having readers enjoy their work over getting paid to do it. I was essentially called naive by another writer, a writer of paranormal erotica no less, who told me that one "couldn't pay the mortgage" by simply being read by a bunch of people.

    It really upset me, that she viewed writing as a profession like any other, that no matter how passionate you are about it, in the end it is just a means to a paycheck. Of course we should get paid for a job well done, but before that can happen, we must focus on developing our work, our craft.

    I'm glad I'm not alone in thinking this.

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  7. Diego, you are definitely not alone. I can't help but shake my head when yet-another-cheap-thriller appears on the best seller's lists. Business marketing majors have boiled creative writing down to a hard, tight formula and sweet talked the publishing industries. So sad. :(

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  8. Thank you for the challenge to write what's on our hearts and minds instead of just what we know people want us to write. As a blogger in the process of growing her blog and brand, I really needed to hear this ;)

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  9. Fantastic follow up! Thank you for the buzz! :)

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  10. Good thoughts. I guess it can be very easy to become politicians with our writing, giving in to the demands of the people, when if we approached our respective tasks honestly and with integrity, we would actually satisfy the demands of the people in ways they wouldn't have expected.

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  11. Kellie, you are more than welcome! Thank YOU for providing me with some great food for thought!

    Jason, thanks for dropping by! Love the analogy you use--"becoming politicians with our writing..."

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  12. "Sad songs and waltzes aren't selling right now"
    Did you just quote Going My Way? If so - impressive!

    I abandoned my old blog that I had worked on for 1.5 years and started my new one in January specifically so I could write authentically about topics I want to write about. And you know what? One of the most taboo topics - depression - is one of my most viewed and commented-on subjects so far.

    BTW - found you via WOE weekend linkup!

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  13. Hi JD! I actually quoted that line from a Willie Nelson Song, by the same title! :)

    I totally support your decision to get out there and write what was close to your heart! Depression is an uncomfortable subject for some, but for many many others, it's a subject that needs to be addressed. Talking it out, or writing it out in this case, can be an incredible support! Keep up the great blogging!

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