Writing For Love vs. Writing For Others
Earlier today I posted on Facebook. This was my status update:
Sometimes I really want to write a story set in feudal Japan. Put all the research I did when I wrote fanfic and my years of Japanese classes to some kind of use. Then I think to myself, “Self, you know maybe only 3 people would read it,” and I deflate. Just randomly thought about it again this morning during a convo with the hubs.
I had some people comment to say they would read it, or to just write it anyway. One comment suggested I write a story set in modern-day Japan instead. And yet another asked whether I write for the joy of writing or for other people.
Honestly? I’ve been writing since I was 10 or 11 years old. For years, no one read my work but me. Then I got brave and started sharing my scribblings with friends from school. Then later, when the internet started getting more and more popular, with my online friends. Eventually I started writing fanfic and posting it on websites like FanFiction.net. Years after that, I discovered that m/m actually existed in a genre outside of what I was reading—and writing—online. Yes, I thought. I’ve found my people. Needless to say, if you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably aware what eventually came of that. 😉 I’ve been published professionally for almost 3 years now, and I still sometimes write things that will never see the light of day. Stuff that I needed to get out as a catharsis of sorts, and then I stuck it in a folder and moved on.
I’ve seen the “write to the market” versus “write for yourself” debates. I have two stories out presently that were written simply out of love, knowing they likely wouldn’t have a very broad audience. One was solely for myself. Zombie Wonderland, my zombie apocalypse Christmas novella. The other, Love Rising, was written both for me and one of my best friends. I knew when I started both of these they wouldn’t sell very well. I wrote them for the joy of it and because the ideas dug in and refused to let go.
But… since the beginning of time, when people started telling stories orally, there was always a point to the telling—to entertain, teach lessons, pass on traditions, etc, etc. Storytellers crave an audience, and I’m no different. We all—or perhaps I should say most of us—hope that people will read and enjoy our stories. Hopefully many people. But being that there are only so many hours in day, sometimes we have to make the tough call: write the story that you know full well very few people will read or write the story that has the potential to reach a much broader audience. I’ll be frank—I write for the love of writing, but I also do this for a living, to help supplement my husband’s income and put money into my son’s college fund. I’m fortunate in that I’m making a career by doing what I love and have always wanted to do. That being said, sometimes I allow myself to be fanciful, to write a story regardless of whether or not I think there will be an audience for it. And sometimes I make the practical choice. But even in that case, I’m writing what I want to write. I don’t write trying to take advantage of what may or may not be popular. Contemporary is my main genre because it’s what I primarily enjoy reading—and what most of my ideas happen to be when they pop into my head. I have plans for shifters and another merman and whatever else starts to scratch at my brain. I write what calls to me. But if I have a choice between two different ideas and I know that one will find a broader audience than the other, well, sometimes I go with the more marketable idea. Sometimes but not always.
So, do I write for joy or do I write for others? The answer is as simple and complex as this—both.