As a follow-up to a few conversations I’ve had with other folk this week, I wanted to broach the question of “Who do you write for?” In an ideal world, where money grows on trees and coins spew from an eternal fountain, we would write for ourselves. When money is involved, however, this question gets more complicated because we have to manage our wants and needs with our clients. In my case, I started out solely as a post-modernist writer. Well, what the heck does that mean?
The term Postmodern literature is used to describe certain tendencies in post-World War II literature. It is both a continuation of the experimentation championed by writers of the modernist period (relying heavily, for example, on fragmentation, paradox, questionable narrators, etc.) and a reaction against Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist literature.–SOURCE: Wikipedia
Basically, I enjoy playing around with language and format to create and allude to different types of character developments, while not revealing everything about the plot. It’s a classification that others tagged my work with in college, but the experimental part of writing is what drew me to it in the first place.
In addition to that sort of writing, I focused on other more business-focused avenues that other writers often do. Do I enjoy writing a press release? Well, it’s not as enjoyable as writing a song lyric, but it’s not something I hate doing because now I appreciate its function. Still, I’ve moved past the point of writing what I want to write all the time (and being okay with it) because what I want and what words or projects will sell are two, very different things.
It comes back to that old argument put forth years ago about author’s intent. Should I writer write for the audience or what they want to write? My argument used to be that a writer can’t possibly know what that audience is without trying something first. But the problem with that philosophy, is that time and cost have to both factor into your decision whether or not you can afford to experiment. Some clients pay for writer’s works based on what their expectations are of what you’re working on. Others pay for the writer’s expertise, trusting them to put strategy and other elements into their writing to make that project sparkle.
Say that someone hired me to write a romantic short story similar to a Harlequin novel. If I delivered anything other than a Harlequin-esque short story, would the client be happy? Probably not, because my client is modeling their sales and marketing off of their expectations about what that story should be. The same can be true in business, depending upon what any given company’s expectations are. If someone hires me to write a grant, then my finished project should look, smell and read like a grant.
In order to write what I want, I have to find time to have my own project that I can experiment with. This project should cost me next-to-nothing but my own time, and it should be something that I can afford to play around with. This “experiment” for me has been Argentum: Book One of the Violet War Fantasy Series. The project allows me to write what I want to write, experiment with new trends in internet technology, stretch my marketing skills a bit, and forces me to do the thing I hate more than anything else in this world — promote myself.
Of course, the flip side to writing for myself is to find projects that I want to write for. I’ve only started to do this, because in the past I relied on what was available to write for (and get paid for) rather than looking at it from a “fun” perspective. In my opinion, people who rely on freelance writing for full-time income have less freedom to pick and choose what they want to do than people who have a steady stream of income flowing in. One writer’s path may differ from another writer’s, but in the end — I’ve found that asking yourself who you’re writing for, can help put things into perspective for yourself and your longer-term goals.
When was the last time you asked yourself who you are writing for? What do you want to write versus what are you getting paid to?