Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another Kind of Successful Writer

Forgot this image had a toddler in it before I added it to this entry, and had to give myself a headslap. I chose the picture because I'm talking about hobbies today and Sims, in its many incarnations (Sims1, Sims2, Sims3 and now Sims Medieval; this picture is from S3) is my hobby. It's fun. I can happily spend hours in it, even uninstalling and reinstalling the whole blasted game from the ground up if I think the end result will be more fun and let me go back to work and family recharged. Breeding my Sims is one of my favorite pastimes when I play, which is why I happen to have a lot of parent and baby pictures hanging in my folders. Hats off to professional gamers, and the creators of custom content, but I'm happy enough to play for fun and fun alone.

Which brings us to today's topic. I have several friends who write either entirely or primarily for their own pleasure and do not plan on marketing their work. This is a perfectly acceptable pursuit, and it’s a surefire way to become a successful writer. If you’re writing for your own pleasure and you’re having a good time, then congratulations, you’re doing it right.

Personally, I couldn’t do this. If I knew for a fact that I would never ever sell another piece, then yes, I would still write, because it’s not something I picked and not something I can turn off, but still a big part of me would curl into a ball and die. That’s because a professional writing career is hardwired in me. Having my books on shelves and in e-readers is part of the vision, so that’s the goal I move towards when I write.

I came to professional writing through fan fiction, and still have many friends I made in that venue. Most of them are writers, and most of those are indeed pursuing a profession as such. Others want to have fun and that’s that, which is perfectly fine. It doesn't make them less than a professiona; it's only different.

Let’s take a look at the hobbyist writer, who writes for themselves or fun only. Their goal is to tell a story that will amuse or entertain themselves, so if they’re having fun; goal achieved, well done. Format doesn’t matter, or genre, and the stories don’t have to end or even actually be written. If they want to complete a story, of any length, they can, and if they want to share the story, at any stage, they can, and even pick exactly whom they will share it with, but none of those is a requirement. In fact, there aren’t any. Market trends don’t matter, nor do publishing schedules, editors shifting from house to house, or any other publishing kerfluffles. As long as the hobby writer is having fun, he or she is already a success, because they are meeting the goals they set for themselves. If that's you, jump in, have fun, and dance like nobody's watching.

Writing the book of one’s heart is a classic piece of advice, and that’s one thing the writer of commercial fiction would do well to learn from those who write only to please themselves. We need to remember the love. Remember what it’s like to sneak off for a few stolen moments of dipping into the story world in the midst of day job, housework, or family wrangling and not care about anything else. Live with the characters and bleed when they bleed. Juggling the business and the art of writing can be tricky, well, business, but for those of us hardwired for a writing career, that’s all part of the process. A process, I have to remind myself, that can’t get started without a finished manuscript.

That’s where the discipline comes in. Nobody is going to pound my keys for me. Nobody knows my characters and their lives and trials and their story world like I do, and unless I write and share them, nobody ever will. That thought could absolutely suffocate me, and that’s why I haul my carcass down to a local coffee shop every day and get down to work. That’s why I am a member of Romance Writers of America and our local chapter, and have eyes to joining yet another, as well as special interest groups. This is the job I was created to do, and I want to do it all to the best of my ability. That’s what I love, the whole deal. Still, it’s that love of the story that has to be the root of it all, and I have to thank my hobbyist friends for reminding me of that.

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