Writers may wonder if they should consider their creative writing art or a product to be sold. For some, it’s a little bit of both. For others, it’s definitely something that they want to be seen as a marketable item. Then there are a few who consider their stories to be art. For the longest time, I thought of my writing as both art and as a “product”, because I wanted to market it to readers – I wanted editors to help make it better. While I’ve always considered creative writing to be “painting with words”, I didn’t consider it to be a full art form that shouldn’t be touched by other people.
The first time I heard the concept of someone considering their writing to be art was when I had a brief conversation with an English teacher over Twitter. He told me how I reminded him a lot of a student he had who was gifted with creative writing. He shared a few of her short stories with me and they were very good. She was only 11 at the time and her level of creativity was already off the charts. He told me that she believed her writing was art, so once the draft was done she didn’t edit it or nor did she want anyone else editing it. I sat back and thought “Wow.” I mean the level of belief you’d need to have in your own work to feel that way shows a great amount of confidence. I thought, “You know, I could see being that way for shorter stories. But it’s a lot harder to make a first draft of a novel work without revising it and editing it at least a little.” That conversation stayed with me. More recently, I’ve really been questioning the whole idea of whether I want to consider my writing art or if I want to try marketing it better and investing more in beta readers and editors to “perfect” it.
There is a part of me who’s always wanted to make a living off my writing and I admit that when I started out this was my plan. As I’ve written over the years, though, I’ve realized how important it is that my work be my own. I write from the heart and I’ve broken many story rules that would prevent me from getting published through the traditional route. A few days ago, someone made a critique on one of my stories and said that he found the narrative thoughts to be distracting and that I needed to show more than tell. Now, this is just one opinion and who knows how good his own writing is, but my first thought was “I love how this story is written. It’s exactly how I want to read and when I read other people’s books, I enjoy those inner thoughts by the protagonist.” Sometimes you just have to tell. In that moment, I fully understood that writing for me is art. I’d rather stay an unknown for the rest of my life and be true to my writing than take the route of pleasing others and creating stories I don’t fully enjoy.
Writing is art for me. I’ll obviously still edit my own stories, especially the novels, several times before they’re released, but I won’t be hiring professional editors anymore. I know many people will cringe at this, but honestly, as an indie author it wouldn’t matter if I paid $1500 for an editor or if I self-edit, because sales are based more on how interesting the cover is and how well I promote myself. In my experience, the editors I’ve hired helped me fix those little typos or grammatical errors, but their feedback pretty much always conflicted with how I wanted the story to go. The books that have sold the best haven’t been edited professionally so that says something. My most reviewed book was self-edited by me and I spent $50 for a pre-made cover that fit the story well.
There’s really two main paths you can take as an author. You either learn how to write for market and develop your craft to make it more sellable or you decide that your writing is art and keep everything as is. There’s a saying that says “Authors don’t find readers. It’s the readers that find books.” I want people who discover my books to think “Ah, this is what I’ve been looking for. Something different. What a breath of fresh air… finally.” So I think I’d be happier with a smaller readership who really loves the uniqueness of my writing than to slave over pleasing the current trends and *maybe* making it big.
Yes, there are downsides to self-editing. Maybe it won’t be a polished, marketable product that a big publisher will want to pick up, but it’s mine and it’s the gritty, emotional, inspiring story I want to be. It’ll have a a few minor errors, just like any form of art. It’s not about perfection, it’s about creating something you’re happy with.
Is writing art for you? Is it a mixture of different things? Or do you prefer to write for market so you can get published one day?