Monday, October 05, 2009

Why Do I Write?

Generally we try to avoid this kind of metaphysical head-scratching on ::Acquired Taste. It's normally enough to accept that I do write and leave it at that. I've been prompted to ask myself the question on the back of my last post, where it became clear that I had not exhausted my interest in writing fantasy. But yet I'm setting off down the road of historical fiction instead, for any number of good reasons.

At the moment my interest in historical fiction feels like going to a dating agency which has set me up with the perfect partner. Do you read historical fiction? Yes. Do you read history? Yes. Does your fantasy fiction read more like historical fiction? Yes. Do you want more people to read your work? Yes. Then your best genre is... historical fiction.

And that's all very logical. If I want to maximise my chances of being published commercially again, then histfic (is that a word?) is the way to go. But is that point of spending a year of my life in front of a keyboard? Before The Dog of the North was accepted for publication, I'd already made the decision to carry on writing regardless of whether I ever got published. The reason I write is primarily my own amusement, an amusement that derives more from creating my own worlds than anything else. Migration to histfic, therefore, is motivated at least partly by commercial considerations. There's nothing wrong with this, but for something that's essentially a hobby (albeit a serious one), is the best option? If I like writing fantasy best, and I'm doing this for fun, why wouldn't I carry on?

These are very much open questions. But I have the luxury of not writing for a living. That means I spend the day doing something that I do because I'm paid to. I'm not sure that I want writing to go the same way.

7 comments:

Frances Garrood said...

I've recently posted something similar on my blog, Tim - ie that the writing itself is what it's about; not so much what happens afterwards. You seem to have enjoyed planning your new novel, but if you're not going to enjoy actually writing it (and if like most of us, you feel you can't depend on its being published) are you doing the right thing? It occurred to me as I was writing this that even if I knew a book was guaranteed publication, I couldn't write it unless I really enjoyed the writing process.

Tim Stretton said...

All the MNW gang have been round the block enough to learn that a) being published is no guarantee of a large and enthusiastic readership and b) we aren't going to get rich doing this.

The question of motivation then becomes central. Why are we doing this? And I think most of it comes down to having fun, even if sometimes of a masochistic variety.

If I spend all day doing something I don't want to do because I get paid for it, it certainly seems perverse to turn a hobby into a less remunerative version of the same...

Aliya Whiteley said...

I've come round to this way of thinking too recently. Why put extra strain on something you enjoy, and ruin it? I mean, you might love having sex with your other half, but that doesn't mean you'd like to turn them into a prostitute.

Um....

Verification word - dismatip.

Alis said...

Tim, I'm sure that if you don't think you'll enjoy writing historical fiction then you shouldn't do it. Because if you don't enjoy there's probably very little prospect of your readers doing so.
If submerging yourself in a fictional world (or a real world you are fictionalising) for several hours a day doesn't feed something in you then, as you suggest, it's just another chore.

Tim Stretton said...

Aliya - er, yes... (this is surely the departure point for a Whiteleian short story..)

Alis - I'm sure I would enjoy writing historicals. I just don't think I'd enjoy it as much as fantasy.

Matt Curran said...

Hi Tim

The other question you should ask yourself is: "is it worth the risk to spend a year or more of your life writing in a genre that you don't find as rewarding as fantasy, but you do enjoy and could make a living from?" If the answer is yes, then you should go for it. Ultimately, you’re right - we write because we enjoy it not because there's going to be much money at the end of it. If writing in a genre that's second best means you get the freedom to also write in your favourite genre later i.e. fantasy under a pseudonym, then perhaps it wouldn't be such a chore. But I guess it all boils down to commitment. Do you feel committed to writing pure histfic, or is it only a financial thing? If it's the latter and the love aint there, then perhaps no, this might not be a smart move after all.

A writer once told me that if you can’t convince yourself youlove what you’re writing, then you won’t convince anyone else...

David Isaak said...

I know a number of musicians who've ruined their love of making music by going pro.

I'm on the fence here. I can't write something simply becasue I'm "supposed to," but I also can't write something with any passion if I know it has no chance of being published.

Mind you, I'm not recommending this attitude. More like suffering from it.