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The Writing House Has Many Rooms

28 January, 2008

I enjoy and support the inclusive nature of writing. It offers so much to people, who vary widely in why they write. (Getting published is a different matter–it’s exclusive rather than inclusive.)

Writing attracts people for different reasons. Some hope that through writing they’ll become rich and/or famous–and some succeed. Some have the goal of sharing their personal journey, while others set out to educate, provoke, or amuse. Some people write for the fun of letting their creative side out for a romp. Some want to record the intensely personal.

When I talk to people who have made writing part of their lives, I find that they can be categorised in terms of their intended audience. In other words, who do they want to read what they write? A difficulty is that some people are not clear–either to themselves or others–about the category they belong to now, versus the one they want to belong to.

The three broad categories of audience are paying readership, non-paying, and self.

  • Do they want or or do they already have a paying readership? Again, what a variety. Some writers hit the big time, while others write for a more specialised, smaller market. For others, this is a goal still to be reached. But this goal of getting paid for their writing identifies people in this group as professional writers. One can query this descriptor. For example, is someone who published a book 10 years ago and nothing since still a professional writer? Or an ex-professional writer? To me, it depends on the person’s current actions and goals for his or her writing.
  • Are they happy to stay with a non-paying readership? People can find ‘free’ readers by joining a writing group, club or class, either locally or online. They can also publish for free via the many online publications on the Net.
  • Are they intent on writing for an audience of one, themselves?

Walt Whitman said, ‘I am large, I contain multitudes.’ The same goes for writing. It is and should always be a house with enough rooms for all of us.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 January, 2008 11:20 am

    what a great post.. and so true… it makes me appreciate even more the wonderful opportunity we have in this era of modern technology,, we can savor writers of all genres,, from any country,, varying cultures, etc… and do it all in the comfort and privacy of our own home…

    Yes, so many more sub-genres of fiction have sprung up because the Web enables like-minded people to find each other and communicate easily. Where I live, in Australia, the wide open spaces here, plus the huge physical space between it and the homeland, England, was once described as the ‘tyranny of distance’. This concept loses some of its power when we can bypass physical separation to communicate easily via technology. The downside is that there’s SO much on the Web that it can be confusing and frustrating. E.g., A friend recommended LiveJournal as a spot to find interesting writing groups. But after an hour trawling through many of its groups, all which seemed to specialise in sub-genres I’m not interested in, I gave up!
    Marsha

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  2. 28 January, 2008 9:51 am

    Marsha:

    We’re on the same wavelength. Two of us had a very similar conversation by phone a few days ago, and the matter wasn’t resolved. As you say, there are too many variables. I’ve noticed that writers driven by a need for recognition or attention seem more likely to achieve success. I don’t know what to say about those who hope to get rich.
    Hi Robin, Thanks for pointing out the strong desire to be recognised as a major driver for writers. Even this kind of positive recognition that people who write are seeking can vary. Here’s some that come to mind:
    * Crossing some kind of personal threshold that frees the person to ‘self-select’ the title ‘writer’ without feeling a fraud.
    * Getting published. (An unfortunate effect of thinking that publish=recognition is the growth of vanity presses.)
    * Publishing in order to become recognised as an expert or brave new voice in the field/genre.
    * Hitting the jackpot, by getting money AND recognition.

    You’re spot on about recognition linking to success. It seems reasonable to think that writers who are determined to be recognised will actively seek ways to be noticed. A first and important step is having something to notice, i.e., a publication. After all, who gets invited to speak at the writers’ festivals? Only those who can hold up a book they’ve written. Marsha

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