Writing for Passion
Follows: Writing for Money
Most, if not all, writers write because they love it—or at the very least, loved it to begin with. This is something I’d argue until death. Whether you write because you want to make others happy, or it’s therapeutic to you, or because you love the idea of people reading your words, it boils down to love.
As I stated in my last essay, it can be extremely difficult to achieve monetary value in one’s literary career. It is competitive atmosphere where you can literally get paid pennies per word—and only competent writers with backbone can demand more. You can slave away for years before you finally find a ‘steady’ income, or that big break that people rattle on about in the publishing world.
If someone wants money, but doesn’t love writing, then they’d find a less fickle mistress to do so. It’s that simple.
My first love will always be storytelling. There was something almost intoxicating for my tiny pre-pubescent mind when I first developed a character from thin air, and then made a story around them. I still remember their name. I still have that story. My family must have found it amusing, if a little startling, as I whizzed about the living room explaining an entire story. My mum told me to write it down—so I did.
I never flinched.
Instead I wrote stories, long and short, poems, essays—my favourite part of my art degree was the dissertation.
Back in school I hated reading. I couldn’t do it. The words moved about the page and sentences didn’t make much sense. Of course I now know that’s dyslexia, but not for one second did it impede my writing (other than slow me down). In ten years I’ve written more stories than I can count and I still get the same rush as I did way back then.
It helped me in ways that I am still learning to appreciate. It was—as cliché as it sounds—escapism and a form of therapy that was invaluable to me. It helped me process moments of my life that I couldn’t quite understand beforehand, from bullying to abuse, from heartbreak to death.
If I haven’t written in a few days it starts to show. If it’s been a few months, I become almost unbearable. Writer’s block is a horrible experience for anyone, but there’s no shame in it. For years I was convinced I was blocked, yet I had friends who wrote and denied they ever had it. Yet, it still bugs me, and I believe that’s because when one is writing for passion, a block can feel like you’ve let yourself down somehow.
One is always inevitably linked to their work, but more so intimately when writing for passion. To become so enthralled in your story, it can be easy to get lost in it to the point where it can be difficult to receive feedback. It was a lesson I learnt very quickly yet refused to accept. I didn’t want to admit that the feedback was constructive and that my reaction to it was based purely on a bruised ego.
To this end, I believe writing for passion’s biggest drawback is just that. There are those who look at their work and see absolutely nothing wrong with it. They’ll turn their nose up at any form of feedback unless it’s a 5 star review on Goodreads, and anyone that disagrees is either a troll or has no idea what they’re talking about. This is an extreme, but I’ve definitely met one or two writers like this.
I know when I was young that’s all I wanted, because all I wanted was to make people happy with my stories. For this to happen it all needed to be achieved on the first try. Second or third drafts must have meant I wasn’t a very good writer. Of course, I also thought it meant I’d have less time to write other stories, and I didn’t have a very good sense of time (I still don’t).
The thing here to learn is quite simple: constructive feedback isn’t about saying “you’re a bad writer” or “I can write this better than you.” If you’ve got that you need to surround yourself with better people, maybe join an appropriate writing group who share similar goals and ideals. Constructive feedback taught me that I had potential and I had a story, and how to articulate it better. If I want readers to enjoy my work, what better way than to improve on it? Practice makes perfect and all that malarkey, but so does opening yourself up to improvement without being prideful.
For a while I read nothing but readers’ reviews on different but similar stories to the ones I write, and it was terrifying. I was so sensitive to what they were saying and it wasn’t even directed at my own work. That passion is a constant raw nerve that needs watching, I say.
Another drawback is that writing solely for passion means you don’t get any revenue for all the hard work you’ve put in, and some people who write for passion have work that the world never sees. Between the two, I find the idea of the latter much more heart-breaking, but that’s just me.
I’d love to be able to sit back and write my life away. I’d bury the world with every story I have to tell, and the idea of making one reader happy should be enough to drive someone forward. The moment someone tells me they write, I get giddy because of how it has helped me in my life. I know that rush of exhilaration that comes from realising a new story, which is why it saddens me that creative writing isn’t taught more in schools. It helped me so much with learning spelling and grammar because it held my attention far better than breaking down depressing feminist short stories ever could.
People moan that literacy skills are atrocious, but maybe they wouldn’t be if schools were more creative in that regard. So many people I know say they have a story they want to write but worry because they don’t have the skills. Now, that’s sad. Yet, once they finally pick up the pen they learn so quickly because it holds their attention and their imagination.
Despite its drawbacks, I will tell anyone who has any inkling to write to do so. Someone could come into the writing group with jaw-dropping grammar and spelling, but I’ve been there with bad writing habits, so it’d be hypocritical to expect everyone to write at the level of best sellers. I’d make it my mission to help them tell their tale, to help them find their storytelling style and improve their work.
Because, why not?
I write for passion, and for the passion in others.
© 2016 Lannah Marshall
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Sometimes she writes. Sometimes she doesn’t. Either way, she’s not doing what she’s supposed to be doing.