Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Who Do I Write For?

It is blog chain time once more, and Michelle has given us a question from the business side of writing, asking:

Do you write for the market or for yourself? Why? Are there times you do both? Or times when you've written something specifically because it was "hot" at the moment? If so, how did it turn out?

And my answer is, "Uh-uh, huh, of course, I don't never always do that."

Now why am I answering with all the straightforwardness of a politician trying to skirt the latest scandal? I guess because I feel like this is one of those questions where if you say, "Yes, I write for the market" then you look like you are completely lacking in artistic integrity and are writing some pale sad insipid poorly disguised carbon copy of Davinci Code, Harry Potter, Twilight, or some other bestseller.

On the other hand, if you write for yourself than you paint the picture of the tortured artist, sitting in a coffeehouse (NOT Starbucks, a serious artist would never be seen anywhere so unoriginal), wearing all black and scribbling their novel (written entirely in free verse) into a notebook.

Okay, so neither of these are flattering portraits. Also, none of the writers I know fit into either one of these molds. Therefore - there must be some other in between option, where we are aware of the markets, but also aware of who we are as writers.

I like to think of it in driving terms (and maybe this analogy is occurring to me because I was in a car for 13 hours on Monday driving back to Tennessee after an Easter trip to visit my family in Buffalo. This was on top of the overnight trip last Wednesday that took 11 hours.). The book we're writing and the books we want to write are the road before us. Meanwhile the side-view mirrors let us keep track of the other drivers on the road and what they are up to.

This isn't some sleepy little country road we're driving down either, but a California style freeway with several lanes of traffic. The drivers in those either lanes are other writers. And yes, the sparkly black Hummer stretch limo with Stephanie Meyers hanging out of the moon roof and "woooing" (not a diss, if I was her, I'd be "woooing" too) does draw our attention maybe a moment longer than it should. Still, the majority of our attention is centered on that road before us, while peppered in are those glances at the side-view mirrors, just to keep track of who else is on the road with us, and maybe to see if we need to change direction or move into a different lane.

I would add two screaming children in the backseat into this analogy, but I don't really have anything for them to represent - except a horrifically accurate portrait of my actual life.

So which do you choose: writing for the market, yourself, or some combination of the two?

And to keep following this chain you can find Rebecca before me and Amanda directly after!