When I was 13 I was amongst a group of teenagers for a spell, most of them 2-4 years older than me. When the time came to part ways, the fond, final remembrance one girl had was, "Well... You're opinionated. Um. And sometimes your opinions are helpful, I guess."
At times I like to think that was a wake-up moment for me and my social skills, but the truth is I'm still pretty strong in my opinions and pretty vocal in general. I'm sometimes afraid that this sounds like, when I'm describing my own perspective on myself, I'm taking a position of general advocacy. When it comes to a creative endeavor of the pursuit of an individual's dreams, I'm rarely doing that.
One of the things I'm most vocal about is that path I've decided to pursue for publication. I want to stress that I don't think it's the right or necessary path for everyone. To that end, I present here four hypothetical case studies of what I consider to be very valid approaches to writing. There are plenty more, too.
John writes for himself. He likes to show his writing to others, and he really gets a shot of spiritual energy when readers connect what he's created, but his writing is a creative, expressive exercise. It's art. He crafts his words and he doesn't want others to mess with them. He wants to keep thinking about stories and lofty ideas; he couldn't care less about marketing or promotion. John writes stories, and has even completed novels. He doesn't try to publish them, but he enjoys pulling them out and sending copies to new friends, and sometimes he posts some on his blog.
Alice writes for herself. She loves showing her writing to others, and craves the feedback she gets from readers whether its positive or negative. Her writing is creative and expressive, but it's also about communication of ideas. It's distributed art. She crafts her words and only lets a few trusted folks help her adjust those words; in the end, it's still her say. She does not thrive on the marketing or promotion, but she understands their importance in getting her story out. She takes her writing projects very seriously. She mostly self-publishes them, so she control how the words she wrote for herself are presented to the readers she hopes to reach.
Ella writes the stories she wants to write, for readers. She hopes to make a little money writing and she wants the stories she loved to loved by a lot of other people. Her writing is creative and expressive, but it's also attainable. It's popular art. She crafts her words and then holds her breath as she hands her work over to editors. She accepts the inevitability of compromise, but she is ready to fight for her own voice and style. She is willing to work at marketing and promotion, but she wants broader exposure than just her own efforts can produce. She approaches her writing in at least two phases -- an essentially creative phase and a more pragmatic phase. She works with small press publishers, so that she can continue to feel involved in as much of the process as possible but begin to tap into distribution channels.
Nick writes the stories he wants to write, for readers and marketers. He hopes to make at least a modest living writing fiction, and he hopes that his stories are entertaining for many people, and reach a handful of others. His writing is creative and expressive, but it's also prepared. It's popular expression. He crafts his words, always thinking about how readers will respond to them, trusting in skill plus readability as a formula that pleases marketers. He views his submitted draft as his creative work and the final product as the commercial product that he and editors produce together, and so tries to be very open to corrections and changes. He is willing to work at the marketing, but he want to have access to major stores and occasional promotional resources. He has a cut-throat view of his own writing. He works with an agent and submits to large publishing houses, secure in his own creativity and willing to trade final control for the broadest possible distribution.
I'm a Nick, but I applaud all the Ellas, Alices, and Johns out there, too. Long live the storytellers, whatever their path!