Writely Advice: It’s all about balance

Recently I had an extended conversation with a dear writer friend that spanned a vast number of topics. From that conversation a number of conclusions were drawn — but one of the most important conclusions was the different types of writers there are. I’m not talking about genre writers or those that hand write first drafts — I’m talking about those that look at this craft as a business vs. those that look at it as nothing but an art. It became very clear to me that I fell closer to the latter than the former. But what was even more important was how neither type could survive without balance. That’s right, a perfect mixture of the business and the beauty.

I’ve spent most of my adult life striving for balance. The balance of the feminine and the masculine, work and play, friendship and relationship. Even in my books I strive for a balance of horror, humor, reality, and fantasy. It’s not always easy and sometimes even a challenge to keep once achieved. But what I wanted to bring up to my readers is this point:

The only way we will achieve success as writers is to learn how to come to a balance between our craft being a business and an art. But why is that so important? There are writers out there who are succeeding, in amazing fashion, while looking at this from a strict perspective (either as an art or as a business). Thing is, those people probably¬† have “people” on payroll to help force that balance. And since most of us don’t have a payroll, we have to find the balance on our own.

Let me try to make this very simple for you.

To find that sweet spot of balance as a writer you have to separate the act of writing from the act of promoting. But even in the separation, you can’t completely isolate them and say the act of writing is your art and the act of marketing is your business. Why? Let me list a few reasons:

  • Your “art” may demand you write such niche genre fiction that it won’t sell.
  • Your “art” may steer you in a direction that could isolate your books too far from mainstream.
  • Your “business” may neglect unique and creative ways of promoting.
  • Your “business” may forget the heart and soul that has gone into the creation of the art.

Those are just some very obvious examples that do a great job of muddying up the issue. So how do you figure out this riddle? The first thing you need to do is decide for yourself what your true driving force is. Do you write because there is some unknown force that insists you create art or do you write because your writing is a marketable talent that can finally take you from the daily grind of the Shirttucker Army? Both are legitimate reasons and one is not better than the other. The crucial element is to know, without question, which you are. Once you know which applies to your craft you then know where you need to go to seek balance.

If you are driven to write because of an artistic calling, then you need to work to include some business in your approach (be it in your marketing or in your choice of next series to create). If you are driven by a more practical purpose, then you need to apply your heart and soul into your marketing or in the development of your characters.

This balance can also apply not only to your approach, but to the books you choose to write. I am very heavy on the horror. But I use the light-hearted Shero series to help balance that out. Also, I understood when I decided to write from my passion for horror that the genre was not a best-selling genre. So even within that I chose zombies because they are one of the more popular monsters in the genre (besides I do LOVE me some zombies). Yes, I could opt to write a vampire book (and I will once I feel safe that Vlad Kurvail won’t kill me while I’m writing his story), but with that genre reaching saturation, it doesn’t make sense for me to get sidetracked from zombies at the moment.

Even between the covers you can find balance — humor, character, plot, scene, description. Don’t go too heavy on one at the expense of another.

Unfortunately, there is no formula for balance. But once you take a moment to dig deep within your writer’s psyche, you’ll realize what you’re missing and can begin layering those missing pieces to make a much more whole creature that is as much art as is business. Once you’ve achieved that, your books will grow as well as your sales.