Mark Terry

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Writing For Fun & Profit

March 8, 2007

Actually, I'm not going to write about writing for profit. I do that all the time. I want to ask you a question: are you having fun?
The reason this was on my mind was because of a posting on the BookEnds Literary Agency blog on March 6.
I received a recent comment/question from a blog reader and have experienced this with a client.
What do you do when the fun has left the writing? When you’ve become so paralyzed by the rejections and critiques that you don’t even know how to begin? You’ve gotten so caught up in what you’ve done wrong or what you should be doing that you’ve lost the ability to even find a story?
I guess I wouldn’t call this writer’s block. I would call it mid-writer’s crisis. It’s that point when you’re taking a look at your life, both personally and professionally, and you begin to wonder how you got here, why you’re doing this, and what’s the point. It’s when you suddenly realize that this craft you once loved is no longer fun. And it’s the most tragic thing for me to hear about. Yes, rejection is part of this business. Whether you’re published or not you’re going to hear it—from editors, agents, reviewers, and even readers who “don’t read that type of book,” but when it paralyzes a writer something is wrong.
I'm reasonably confident that most of us got into this gig because we thought it might be fun. There may have been some ego involved and there may have been some dreams of big money, but you just don't keep at it if you don't enjoy the process.
One of the things I've discovered about writing for a living is that money concerns can be pretty debilitating to the creative process. There's a story about Mickey Spillane who was living on an island somewhere warm and he couldn't get any ideas for a story and had some version of writer's block and he got a call from his accountant telling him he was running out of money and faster than you can say "gratuitous sex and violence" the Mickster had plenty of story ideas.
I think most of us tend to work in the reverse, actually. What starts out as pursuit of things that interest us can get warped by pursuit of things that will sell. It's nice when they overlap.
My most common versions of so-called writer's block occur when I allow myself to think something won't sell or get published. There can be a number of subtexts there, like: it's a crowded marketplace; I'm not doing this well; my agent hates these types of books; etc.
I recently completed a fantasy novel for kids. I started it out completely and entirely as something to do for fun. To get away from the idea of publication and selling and write something completely different and just write for fun. Then my 13-year-old read it as I was working on it and kept asking me what came next--he loved it; my agent asked to read the first 25 pages and she loved it. But I thought how refreshing the whole experience was, to write something just for fun. (Of course, now I've sent it off to my agent and I'm getting that whole, will she like it, will we sell it, thing going again).
I've said it before on this blog, though. If you're not enjoying this and your livelihood doesn't depend on it, for god sakes, find something else to do with your time. You can't get that time back, so you'd better enjoy the process itself.
Mark Terry


Blogger Shannon said...

This is a big concern for me, as it happened with photography. It was something I loved for a long time, until I had a wedding photography business for a few years and then I stopped shooting for pleasure.

I almost got caught up in trying to write for what will sell instead of what I enjoy writing, also. I decided to turn my second novel into a thriller, since (1)I enjoy reading them and (2)they seem to appeal to a broader audience. But, I struggled for over a year with this book and it was work and I wasn't having fun. A few months ago I decided I'm not good at thrillers, they just aren't my strong point. So, I chucked the whole thing and began a literary science-based novel that I'm having a blast with and sailing again!

I think you just really have to be true to yourself and really try not to write with your eye on the market or a paycheck.

7:05 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I'm beginning to suspect you shouldn't discount the amount of fun you have actually writing something.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Joe Moore said...

Am I having fun? Yes. I collaborate with fellow author, Lynn Sholes. Our number one goal is to have fun. Everything else is secondary. We get more laughing done than writing. It’s the best job in the world.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I'm glad to hear that, Joe.

I have to say that when I'm actually writing--hands on keyboard, eyes on monitor, imagination wherever--I'm having a lot of fun.

Some of the other stuff, well...

10:16 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Mostly I have fun. I'd more easily call it exhilarating and fulfilling, than fun. Still, the worst day writing is worlds better than any other job. At the end of the day, I just feel so satisfied.

I work like Mickey, though. I write best and quickest with the bills breathing down my neck. It was hard work, teaching myself to produce under pressure.

And now I have the worst time trying to get myself past a slow meander when there is no pressure or promise of money. It's all a head game, isn't it?

10:47 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I definitely think it's a headgame. And I'm my own worst enemy.

I've got a quote on my bulletin board by Henry James.

"We work in the dark. We do what we can--we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art."

I've had a lot of trouble understanding this line: "Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task."

My interpretation is exactly what we're talking about here, headgames.

And boy, I understand the last line: "The rest is the madness of art."

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Good question. I decided to expand a bit and respond on my own blog.

2:47 PM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

I think we're all our own worst enemies.

That's a great quote, Mark! Each of the three sentences would make a great quote, but all 3 are amazing together.

And pondering that quote would get me back to writing, methinks!

5:47 PM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

When life and writing gets hard and depressing I kill someone or destroy something. Okay, not in real life but in my stories. One of the favorite things I ever wrote started with destroying most of the life on the planet. Its over 400 pages now and involves God, the devil and some people driven crazy by events beyond their control. I think my best work comes when I get so down about all the rejection letters that I write for me and forget the worry of if it will sell. Then I come back to why I write in the first place. Because I have to get the stories out...

6:10 PM  

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