Mark Terry

Monday, April 25, 2011


April 25, 2011
My writing career is strange. It always has been, I think. I started out wanting to be a novelist, then got successfully sidetracked into nonfiction, now I write damn near everything and make a living at it.

I know a fair number of writers who started out with nonfiction and shifted to fiction. Some who started in fiction and stayed there, and just about every variation possible.

There have been some recent blog posts by John Scalzi and Tobias S. Buckell where they put up graphs showing the mix of their revenue, where it's coming from. Then I compare to what Kristin Luna does for a living - primarily a travel writer, whose blog, Camels & Chocolate wears me out just reading it (in a sorta jealous sorta way). And I look at my friends Erica Orloff, with her mix of mostly fiction and some ghostwriting and nonfiction, and Jon VanZile, who does a lot of paid blogging and editing and ghostwriting, and...

I know an awful lot of writers and one of the things that occurs to me is I get into trouble when I try to emulate someone else's writing career. We're all unique in our writing careers and because writing is such an individual thing that comes out of our experiences, personality and skill set, it's tough to look at, say, JA Konrath, and say, "Hey, I'm going to duplicate his career."

Be yourself, pursue things your own way, and enjoy the twists and turns. I had a good discussion with my brother this weekend - he's a composer and musician and college professor - and his son is pursuing a degree in creative writing and my oldest son is interested in filmmaking and creative writing and digital media arts with the idea of working in TV or film - and I commented that most creative careers don't go in a straight line. My brother commented, "Mine's been more of a spiral and I can't always tell if it's an upward spiral or a downward spiral."

Yeah, no kidding. I often do find myself returning to things I didn't think I would. And going after new things that don't necessarily work out. Some do, some don't.

That's a creative career.


Blogger Erica Orloff said...

I think this is a great post. Because I have been offered paying gigs speaking to large audiences (most recently about 400 people). And I can tell you that it's just NOT my personality. I turn them down most of the time--sometimes for health reasons (had to predict if I will feel up to it or up to traveling). Partly for personality. I like editing and ghosting for people and nurturing their books . . . and I like ghosting (most of the time), and I love writing fiction. But I think you DO have to acknowledge that what works for me or Konrath, or you of Van Zile is each going to be as unique as the writer and their personality and what makes them happy or what they are comfortable with.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Right. Part of what brought this on is this idea of working to become a publisher of a certain brand of market research reports and I commented to my wife that although I think it's a good idea, whenever I dig into developing it the thought that crosses my mind is, "I hope something else develops so I don't have to do this." Which is NOT the way to go about running a side business and I need to pay attention to that.

Another way of putting it is: just because it's a good idea doesn't mean it's a good idea for me.

10:10 AM  

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