Oct 25

Write What You Love

In 1987 Marsha Sinetar wrote a book about helping people find their career called Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. That’s the bottom line for you as a writer. I’m not one of those who believes you have to suffer for your art. I think you ought to love it. If you’re going to get up and do it every day, nothing is going to motivate you more than your passion for your art.

French actor, playwright, Moliere said it best when he said, “Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.” Funny, sure, but also good sense.

I once worked at a university where everybody in one particular department just hated each other. They wouldn’t speak to each other in the hallways and saw everything any colleague did as somehow a slight against them. They brooded and snarled at each other — they gave themselves ulcers with the acid they constantly generated in their stomachs. I could never figure out why anybody wanted to work there. I would have been looking for another job every day.

Compared with the department I worked in where everyone enjoyed each other’s company and regularly had lunch together — it was the difference between heaven and hell every single day.

No matter what it is you write, romance, action/adventure, westerns, science fiction, mystery, history — whatever — you most likely aren’t an expert in it and have to do research for your writing.  That’s wonderful.  You keep learning.  Even if you are an expert, what you know also fuels your speculation and your curiosity. A famous Methodist minister in New York of the 1930’s and 40’s, Ralph W. Sockman once said, “The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.” You already realize that “What if…” is the most important question of your profession. Your mind wanders best in fields of familiarity.

Think about science fiction — it’s mostly speculation about what we know of the science of our universe. What if there was a universe that operated by different rules? What if the rules of physics, sociology, or any other science were taken to it’s logical extreme — but what if these rules were taken to their illogical extremes?  What you know, what you love, is where you are your most comfortable and your most creative.

As a writer you need a platform — a collection of your work — upon which to build a career.  When you begin, nobody know who you are or what you write.  Of course, you could be a one-book-wonder, but don’t count on it.  You should be in this writing business for the long haul.  And the more you love what you do, the more of it you can crank out.  There are numerous writers who like what they do so much that they write more than their publisher can deal with.  (I write e-books so I don’t have that problem.)

British author Henry Patterson wrote thirty-five adventure novels between 1959 and 1974. Sometimes he turned out three or four such novels per year and his publisher demanded that he began using some other pseudonyms. So he wrote under his own name as well as those of James Graham, Martin Fallon, and Hugh Marlowe, and Jack Higgins.   Then in 1975 one of the novels he put out was The Eagle Has Landed under the name of Jack Higgins. That was a worldwide best seller. So his publisher ended up reissuing all of his other books under the Jack Higgins. His catalogue of books paid off wonderfully. This could happen to you.

If you try to write what you think readers like, but you don’t really enjoy the topic, the genre, or the field, it’s going to be like doing any job you don’t love. You can do it, you may even be able to make a living at it, but there’s no joy in it for you.

Now think about your writing. Do you write what you love? Would you read your kind of story if you hadn’t written it? Think about what kinds of books you read. You tend to read what you love. Is that what you write?

As I wrote at the beginning of this, write what you love. That’s where your bliss is — that’s what you can look forward to everyday. You only go around once. Why not ride the horse you like best?


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