Being a Writer in the 21st Century
Being a writer is a rather loaded term. When you tell people that’s what you are, there is an assumption about what you must, therefore, be doing. You’re clearly published with one of the big-name publishing houses, you’ve received a large advance, and you’re either rolling in it because you are selling thousands of copies every second, or you are poor and starving because you’ve sold three copies of your entire back catalogue in the last decade and you can’t afford to heat your house except by burning unsold copies of your own writing.
All of which is complete nonsense. There are as many routes to becoming a good writer as there are to any other creative industry. Yes, you can be a fiction writer with a published back catalogue, but that doesn’t make you the pinnacle of successful writing; why not be a self-published writer, a blogger, or an unpublished-but-searching-for-a-publisher writer?
There is a strange stereotype about writers that we’re all solitary creatures who yearn to be published in dead-tree presses. Well, the desire to be published is certainly strong, and one shared by most writers, but with the diversity of styles now, the one-size-fits-all is losing its grip on our consciousness.
I was fortunate to be published by an independent publisher four times—three novels and a novella—and have short stories in three anthologies (including one published by Thanet Writers), but does that make me more successful than someone who’s self-published? Not necessarily; good quality self-publishing (and that does exist) can have just as good a reach as traditionally published books, as long as it’s done well—edited professionally, checked thoroughly, and promoted properly. It costs the author a lot more in outlay, but the cut of sales is considerably bigger; a trade-off which, to some, is of benefit.
Blogging—a relatively recent medium in comparison to other forms of publishing—can connect writers with broader and newer audiences. Micro-articles and stories online can attract commuters and people with short windows of opportunity to read, as well as researchers and people wanting to learn about particular subjects. I’m personally extending my own blogging reach as I dip a toe into children’s information—the constant search for answers to life. I’m trying to answer the big questions: Why is the sky blue? Why can’t I pick my nose? Why do I have to go to school? With a son of my own, who seems to thrive on challenging me with questions I haven’t got a clue about, my research felt wasted after I’d answered his questions—so why not put it down and see if I have the ability to communicate an answer to kids and their parents? It’s worth a try.
Writing takes on many forms, and we should embrace the differences. Readers are diversifying their methods, from tablets to websites as well as print magazines, along with their tastes, with searches for non-fiction on far more niche subjects than ever before. So why shouldn’t we writers diversify our styles too, to show readers that there’s a lot more out there? I’m personally slow to the part, but the potential is there. We should embrace it.
© 2019 Matthew Munson
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Thanet-based author Matthew has three novels published by Inspired Quill, is an inveterate blogger, and writing is his passion.