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Wednesday Writing Woe: The “Business” of Writing

11 Comments

I had a business meeting today and rather than boring you with the details, let’s just say the message is: hit the numbers, no matter what it takes.  I guess that’s the downside of having a sales-oriented job. It doesn’t really matter how much work you put in, how nice you are, or any of those other things. All that matters is you hit the numbers. That’s the only measure of your worth.

Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to writing.  Because it wasn’t supposed to be just about the numbers.  I never really imagined myself in a sales environment but that is where I ended up and for a while, it was OK. I had no illusions about it, no expectations, just something you have to do. But then discontent hits and you realize this job does nothing for you except help pay the bills (which, if you think about it, is actually very important). Maybe I’m a romantic but I long for that thing people always talked about, doing what you love and finding purpose in what you do. Well, I certainly don’t love this and what’s more, I highly doubt there’s a greater good in what I’m doing.

In a previous post, I briefly touched on the subject of why we write. I’ve always enjoyed making up stories since I was a kid. But writing them? Not so much, I suppose, as I go through the love/hate relationship that goes with writing a novel. I think back to the stories I’ve read that have touched me and left their impression on me; how they made me smile, cry, and awed to be a part of this amazing make-believe world. I wanted that. To touch someone’s life. For my story to resonate with someone and leave its mark. One person. That was enough, I told myself.

But is it?

There’s been a lot of talk of how writing is a business and how you should treat it as such. If you’re not selling as many copies to make back your advance, publishers will most probably drop you. If you’re self-publishing, then you need to invest on good editor(s), advertising, and all that. But the problem with treating it as a business is you expect to make your investment back, with profit. If you have to worry about that, then certainly you can’t be content with just the one person. Suddenly, it becomes all about the numbers. That pure thing you once thought writing to be, gone. Just as you have to get up each morning, “make” yourself go to work and hit your numbers, you now have to do the same thing with your book.

I told myself I’m determined to finish two novels this year. Whether I would hit my goal or not and what I intend to do with them–submit, self-publish, leave in a drawer to gather dust–I don’t know yet. What do you do when you are split in all directions? The insecure part of me is afraid to show my work to anyone, lest they hate it and tell me I’m no good; whereas the egotistic part of me would like to believe someone out there is just waiting for me to have the courage to share my work. And then there’s the me who is simply afraid … what if I come to think of writing as a business, where suddenly it loses its meaning and beauty because at the end of the day, the numbers is all that matters?

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11 thoughts on “Wednesday Writing Woe: The “Business” of Writing

  1. Thank you for this brave and honest post. I know exactly how you feel. I have been wondering since I was twelve, why write? when the odds of getting published by a mainstream publisher are slim (and getting slimmer with each passing year). And what if you do get a publisher and your book does reasonably well? then the publisher will expect another book or two soon after and it will all turn into a numbers game…Here’s what I do when I feel self-doubt creep in or when my ‘day job’ threatens to steal my joy. I focus on what writing means to me and how I feel when I write. I feel creative and expansive and inventive. It takes me out of the ordinary. Keep being extraordinary! don’t give up.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think you definitely have the right attitude there. Sometimes there comes a point when we just have to decide that the good it does for us far outweighs everything else.

  2. Writing is something I love to do, the marketing stuff I can see me not liking quite so much. But if this is the career I want to do, and do it well, then I got to do it and my determination at the moment outweighs my nerves 😀 Great post, very honest 🙂

    • I’m always inspired by people who know what they want early on and go after it, no matter what. Good luck and looking forward to reading your first book. I think you won’t have much problems on the marketing aspect of it. 😉

  3. From my perch in my 60’s, I think the “why” is a question to be asked about anything that takes major chunks of our time or energy. We do it for love, money, passion, fear, ego…. The key is understanding why you do something because only then can you determine whether you are receiving the benefit from your efforts. It’s not always easy to distill the essence of the “why”, but that is the key.

    • I agree that knowing the why is important but sometimes I wonder if it’s better to simply do things “just because” and not worry too much about the why’s? Maybe the trick is just finding the perfect balance? It’s something I’m definitely still figuring out.

  4. “the perfect balance” – a lifelong quest or the cruelest oxymoron 😉

    Let’s NEVER worry too much about anything !!

  5. You are not alone in this. It was a huge risk to join my first critique group. Fortunately they were a very nice and supportive group, and they gave me a lot of useful suggestions. Being part of a good critique group is definitely the first step to showing others your work and finding out if you have what it takes.

    • The thought of a critique group is scary and great at the same time. You’re lucky to have found such a good and supportive one. I hope one day when I’m ready I can find something/someone like that too and be that support to someone else, as well. 🙂

  6. Pingback: The Lighthouse Award | Just Get It Written

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