Sunday, November 26, 2006

Write On

"Do you think that professional writers don't just write things for fun?"

Whitney's question arose from a conversation we were having at the store. She had remarked that her mom didn't understand writers; I asked for details, and she told me that her mother seemed confused by the posting of a new short story at the Tanith Lee website (Whitney's a big Lee fan). Whitney's mom couldn't figure out why an author would post a story without a means of making money from it; Whitney interpreted that as an inability to understand the writer's desire to write and have fun at it.

Then I suspect I rained on her parade with my point of view. "I don't think professional writers ever write just for fun. Once they're professionals, they're always aware of the fact that this is what they do for a living. Tanith Lee posted her story on line, but I'll bet you she has plans to sell that story or include it in a collection that she will sell at some point. "

Whitney looked disappointed. We're at different points in a lifetime of writing--Whitney still enjoys doing the "write a novel in a month" events and hasn't sold words for money thus far (I'm pretty sure she will someday), while I rarely write fiction any more and spend most of my time at a keyboard writing to earn a living. Even when I'm doing "no pay" activities like--well, like this blog!--I still think of them on a professional level. I'm not doing it just for fun; there are other benefits for me as a writer that I hope will extend into my professional work.

I certainly imagine that Lee enjoyed the process of writing the story. I have strong doubts that she wrote it just because she was having fun, though. There's a difference.

And that's what separates the professional from the amateur.

1 comment:

Charles said...

I'd say you're right, Cliff. Though I do write some stories without a specific market, I'm always trying to write up to my professional level on the off chance I might find something to do with the story later. Even if I'm writing a pastiche that I can't sell for whatever reason, I'm usually figuring the plot at least can be reused later. But these days I genuinely try to only write things that I do find fun. Life's too short to write stuff you don't get a kick out of.