Writing your passion . . . or not?

I’d like to begin today’s post by sharing this video clip by Mike Rowe for Prager University.  It’s a sort of graduation address to the online students there.  Mike makes the very important point that “following your passion” may be exactly the wrong way to address your career.  I think that has a lot to say to us as authors, too.  Watch the video, then we’ll continue.



I see an awful lot of encouragement directed at writers (both wannabe and already published) to “follow your passion”, “write with a passion”, and so on.  I suggest that such advice is actually not very helpful, and may in fact be a hindrance.  If you’ll allow me, I’ll use myself as an example.

I’ve already discussed how I came to write fiction.  Basically, it was out of economic necessity.  I had to learn a new way to make a living after ‘traditional’ doors were closed to me due to injury and permanent partial disability.  In one sense, this actually freed me to explore the ‘career’ of writing from an impartial, dispassionate perspective.  I could explore genres, subject matter, etc. from the point of view of not just what I enjoyed reading and/or wanted to write, but what the market was looking for.  If there was a demand for a book on the domestic life of the Polynesian parrot, what was to stop me writing it?  And if I didn’t care about the domestic life of the Polynesian parrot, why should that stop me?  If I could research the topic and write authoritatively and convincingly about it, why not do so?

In the same way, I see authors trying to ‘break in’ to the market in a particular genre and getting discouraged.  That may be because it’s a crowded genre (e.g. romance and/or erotica) where there are already lots of books and authors and it’s hard to get noticed;  or it’s a field where there are relatively few readers in relation to the overall book market (e.g. those interested in the domestic life of the Polynesian parrot!);  or it’s a moribund genre which hasn’t attracted interest or support from either publishers or big-name authors for some time (e.g. Westerns).  To authors facing such challenges, my advice is:  Why not try to write in a genre where you will be noticed, and where you can offer a quality product that will attract reader interest?  You may not be passionate about that genre, but is that any reason not to try your hand at it?

I’m trying to follow my own advice as I seek to build my readership.  I’ve achieved some success in the genres of military science fiction and space opera, with six books published so far and two more scheduled for later this year.  I’ve written one volume of memoir, covering my years as a prison chaplain.  That’s been much less successful commercially than my fiction, but it was a labor of love, and I’m not sorry to have put so much time and effort into it.  I hope it’ll help those working in or interested in that field.  I’ve just published my first Western, and while it’s not (yet) selling as well as my mil-SF, it’s doing pretty well for a first entry into a moribund genre, and it’s attracted more and better reviews than any of my other books during its short time on the market.  I’ve got at least two more planned in that series, and I hope it’ll become much longer than that.  If the Western genre is moribund, why shouldn’t I contribute to its revival?

What next?  Well, I have a space detective novel partway written, which might turn into either a stand-alone novel or a series.  I’m trying my hand at a fantasy novel, although I honestly don’t know whether or not I have the ‘writing chops’ to be successful in that genre.  I don’t do modern urban fantasy, or Conan-the-Barbarian-style sword-and-sorcery, very well at all.  If anything, mine will be a Tolkien- or Lewis-style fantasy, perhaps with a touch of space opera thrown in (spaceships with elves and swords?).  I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but that’s no reason not to try.  Perhaps, in a year or two, I’ll see if it can attract a readership.  What’s more, I have no intention of stopping there.  If I can write and sell successfully in mil-SF and space opera and Westerns, why not consider other genres in due course?  My objective is to earn a living at writing.  That means I need to be open to writing anything that will sell, whether or not it’s a particular interest of mine.  If I’m a professional, I need to write like one.

I’m reminded of an anecdote about Noël Coward.  The maestro was rehearsing a cast for one of his stage productions in London.  He wasn’t satisfied with the performance of one actor, and told him so fairly scathingly.  The bored, frustrated actor bristled, and asked,”But what’s my motivation in this scene?”  Coward retorted, “Your paycheck at the end of the week!”

That’s exactly the point.  If we’re writing as professionals, we need to focus on the end result of our professionalism – earning a living from our work.  There’s no room for prima donna personalities in any profession worthy of the name – and that includes focusing on our passion instead of (or to the exclusion of) being professional.  Writing is no exception.  If we can focus on our passion and be professional at the same time, that’s great;  but I suggest the latter is more important than the former.


58 thoughts on “Writing your passion . . . or not?

  1. One point. If a writer isn’t interested in a certain genre, a writer probably hasn’t read enough to be familiar with the tropes, the readers’ expectations and whatnot in that genre. If the writer is passionate about it, he or she has probably read so much the expected forms have sunk into the subconscious and will affect the writing.

    Research can take care of that lack, both in, for example, real Western frontier history, and in the requirements of the western novel.

    But it’s a lot faster, if one is already well read in the genre. And recently.

    I’m toying with some urban fantasy ideas . . . and I need to read some recent works, to see if I’m getting the genre right, as it is selling now.

    1. I’ll agree with Pam, here. I’ve read some really… interesting books that, when I asked, the author admitted they didn’t read. Either in that genre, or at all (that one boggled me. Why would you write if you don’t read?)

      So, yes, to be a professional you need to have some passion for what you’re doing. But like love, that can start off with a harmonious working relationship and slowly grow deeper.

      1. I have a friend who has a writing business. She has written books on any number of odd topics, and every single one of them starts with copious research. And of course, once she starts researching, she gets her enthusiasm.

        Maybe instead of “writing your passion,” you should just say “don’t write if it bores you.” It shows when you don’t like the material. (I’m thinking of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, where the author stated in the foreword that he was going to “make [the story] interesting,” which indicates a lack of love for the source material. And then the holes showed badly…)

        1. And made those of us who DID love the original material wall the book, ultimately. (It was a great premise, but about the third time Mr. Darcy made a deliberate, off-color joke–in front of the young ladies–I’d had enough.)

          1. Deliberate ignorance of the theoretical time period didn’t help (such as bound feet on the housekeeper when Japan was supposed to be the fashion), nor did ignorance of geometric progression. Either the zombie plague would have died out by then, or there was a weird mechanism at work.

      2. I’ve seen or heard about writers who thought they were writing really original SF, when what they were writing had been done before, decades before..

    2. “Passionate or Not”, know the field you’re planning to write it.

      Otherwise you’re “never been done before” story idea will bore the target readers.

      Note, I’m sure Pam, as a slush reader, ran into those “never been done before” stories. 😉

    3. I’ve written marketing material and the like for stuff I don’t care about. It’s not as good as the stuff I write when I do care about the topic. I suspect that the rule should be
      1) Write what you are passionate about
      2) Branch out into other ares if that doesn’t bring home the dinero

    4. Speaking of Westerns, I was surprised by the number of Westerns in a Wallyworld. There hadn’t been any, and as I walked down the aisle, the name Louis L’amour caught my eye. There were two :L’amour novels, The Quick and the Dead and The Rider of Lost Creek There were seven other Western novels by other writers, and two :L’amour anthologies. There were also several Western themed Romance novels.

      I don’t know if this represents a shift, or if a new movie based on a L’amour book is coming out, or if these represent reprints. It’s just something I saw.

      1. Reprints.
        IIRC, L’amour died back in the late ’80’s. His daughter did find severel unpublished outlines and stories in his writing room. And she got his publisher to do anthologies of a lot of his early short stories – which were NOT westerns – a mix of adventure, boxing/sports, crime, and pretty much anything that he could sell at the time they were written..

  2. This misses one very important point, which may or may not affect your ability to do a job and earn a living at it: if you don’t follow your passion, but instead are into cleaning out septic tanks as a way to earn money, you are spending all your working time cleaning septic tanks. That’s a lot of hours.

    If you don’t have a choice, fine. If you DO have a choice, you are going to be miserable if your passion is to write, and you are a plumber.

    That time when you’re retired from plumbing, and have time to write, is NOT guaranteed.

    1. I’ve twice followed my “passion” into a career. And both times, passion turned into work, which pretty much sucked any joy out of it.

      “Follow your passion” is one of the Great Lies. Once there’s a schedule and delivery dates and quality control and shipment and accounting and… and…

      It took me far too long to wise up and realize that a job is just a job, and it’s best to keep a good separation between your job and what you really like to do.

        1. I find the deadlines are a necessary kick in the rear to not dawdle. But then if I had to live on my writing income I’d be a good deal thinner than I am now, not to mention homeless . . .

      1. I followed my passion for space into a really great job of 22 years as a space lawyer at the FAA. I’m about to go out on my own, hang my shingle, pontificate on property rights in a blog, and see if I get clients. The passion for space has led me to this next phase as well. Even with a great love of one’s subject matter it’s still a lot of work, and, just like the very boring edits I’m typing into the WIP, there’s always parts you don’t like. But it really helps to have that underlying fascination, love, passion, whatever one might want to call it.

        1. But it really helps to have that underlying fascination, love, passion, whatever one might want to call it.

          Precisely. I really enjoy computer programming. There’s a ton of challenging problem-solving: “How do I get from step A to step B here?” There’s also quite a lot of boring parts, and this past month has been mostly boring parts as we get ready to release — so lots of testing, fiddling with build agents, and so on. Not much of the problem-solving that I love. But it’s a necessary part of getting the software out the door, and until the users can actually use the software, your work as a programmer isn’t done.

          So both attitudes are needed. If you are a prima donna and unwilling to put in the boring parts of the work, you’ll be a lousy programmer (or insert just about ANY other profession here). But if you love the work, or at least many aspects of the work, you’ll probably do a much better job of even the boring parts than someone who is just there for a paycheck and doesn’t love it.

  3. “Most people don’t want to write; they want to have written.”—Jack Woodford

    What you are saying is not false: someone who styles themselves a professional writer should be able to write on any topic in any style. If you style yourself a professional *novelist*, that’s a little different. In our society, novelists usually style themselves in a genre and leave it at that.

    But that’s the professional side, not the motivation side. People do things for reasons. When the reasons are obscure, they appear unreasonable; but when the reasons are discovered, it usually makes sense. For example, if we saw a presidential candidate who was completely unfit for the office; who was racist, homophobic, and misogynistic; who claimed to be many things and was none of them; we’d wonder why he was running. If it came out that moneyed interests had paid him to run as a way of destroying a political party, the entire thing would make sense—a paid performance; a hatchet job; a docent on a road paved with…well, perhaps not *good* intentions.

    So with people who write and with people who *want* to write: they have their reasons. If their reasons are weak vs. reasons to do other things, no writing is forthcoming. Mickey Spillane, for instance, said he rarely had any idea for a book until his accountant called him up and said, “You’re not in trouble financially, but it might be good if something was coming in.” He usually had an idea shortly after. Or, in the case of Garret Morris playing “Alex Haley”, ” ‘No,’ I said. ‘I don’t have another grandfather to write a book about.’ ‘Well,’ they said, ‘we will give you $14M sight-unseen if you have another book.’ ‘Damn!’ I said, ‘if I didn’t just think of another grandfather to write about!’ ”

    It’s also true people lose sight of their reasons for writing, whatever those reasons are. This is where passion comes in. (Note: if you are one of those people who, when trapped on a desert island with a postage stamp and a broken pencil, would find a way to write an entire novel, I am not talking about you.) If you are passionate about something, it usually can’t be squelched or silenced in favor of something else. It’s going to come out. So if you want to be a writer, hooking up to the unsquelchable unsilenceable is a virtue. It can keep you going when the going gets tough.

    That also means you’ll find it hard to write anything that’s outside the passion. It’s not impossible, of course: you could find a way to expand the passion and keep going. From ten-pin bowling passion, you could expand to nine-pins, then to duckpins, then to the generalized concept of bowling games; and so forth. But know your limits, and if you are cooling, move a little closer to the creative fire and keep writing.

    I, unfortunately, am a chimera (in its less monstrous meanings). When it comes to non-fiction writing, I can usually set myself a task, make an argument or an orderly presentation, and be done. But when I’m disgruntled, stand ye therefore also back. The passion hammers the pen into the sword, I draw it forth, and I am King of all the Britains.

    And on the topic of fiction, well, I have what is called in astrology circles “Uranian creativity”. It doesn’t come upon me until it does, and then it comes upon me. I can literally shift back and forth between writing and other tasks without any loss to the writing. And I’m happy with the things I produce. But…it doesn’t come upon me until it does. The best I can do is write down the little whispers—the exchanges of dialogue, the scene settings, the descriptions, and such—and hope Uranus hears me listening and continues the tale.

    So, find your way. If you think you are a professional writer, then write on everything; and if a novelist, write your novels; and if a genre-ist, write your genre. Find your reasons. Stay close to them. Whatever is coming out, let it out, and don’t worry about its size or shape. That’s for later, a separate skill editing. You write you, and that’s enough.

    1. “I am King of all the Britains”

      King of the Britons, even. 😉

      1. I was making what the humans call “a joke” by misquoting a famious line. Note how I wrote “famious” instead of “famous”. Same dealy-o.

    2. Exactly how much money do you think the Dems *have* in this “veiled” scenario of yours? I am personally repulsed by the “unknown” candidate you are deliberately not naming (who could it possibly be? Such a puzzler!) but despite that I can’t conceive of an amount, or a favor, great enough to incentivize a man like the one we’re *not* talking about to play the pawn in an effort to destroy the party we’re also *not* naming. At least not a feasible amount of money…billions, maybe, but…come on. As for favors…verily the mind doth boggle at the thought of what kind of favors would be required in this *hypothetical* scenario…naming rights to the Grand Canyon? An aircraft carrier? Yeah…no. He may be bad, (though I question the the “misogynist” label…really? A knight he ain’t, but a misogynist? Pull the other one. Even the NY TIMES flubbed their effort to sell *that* one…unless they’re in on it! A-ha! That’s it, isn’t it! 😛 I have quibbles with the other labels [homophobic? Really? Don’t tell @Nero] but that one really made me do a double take.) but I’d vote for Vlad Tepes before I voted for Hillary freaking Clinton. I’m sure I’ll have to seek absolution for that vote, but I’d rather risk electing a *possible* pathological liar who *might* (probably will) screw me than a *definite* pathological liar/psychopath who will *definitely* screw me, and whose entire *campaign* revolves around communicating just how *eager* she is to rape the Constitution of these United States! It’s a shitty choice to have to make, but it’s the only choice I have. Yes I realize you were making an analogy, but come on. That was a shitty analogy. Remember, only in *fiction* does life have to make sense. In real life, we get to have fun with billionaire assholes who get a hair up their butt and decide “hey! I think I’ll run for president! Yeah, that sounds like a great idea!” and proceed to indulge that thought. And in real life we get people like Hillary Clinton, a woman who is astonishingly resemblant of any number of fictional evil villains, to run for president at the same time…and we get to have the field narrow down to the asshole billionaire versus the evil, murderous, psychopathic witch hag…because God has a twisted sense of humor! *waits for lightning bolt* *sighs with relief* But that’s life. It doesn’t have to make sense. God bless! 😉 *steps off soapbox* *waits for Orbital Carp Strike(TM)*

      1. oh man i think he just figured out the soapbox is the target designator for the orbital carp cannons…

  4. The trouble comes when people mistake passion as a main ingredient, instead of a spice. There is a wonderful meme floating about to the effect that every single dead body on Everest was highly motivated. Probably passionate, too.

    1. Oh, yeah! I hadn’t encountered the Everest meme, but it resonates.

      I really liked what Mike Rowe had to say, because my experience has been that most people don’t have a passion, especially when they are young. They’re too inexperienced to know what options are out there or to know what all they do like to do. Additionally, passion often comes with competence, which means you have to do whatever your passion is long enough to get good at it. Only then will you know.

      That said… if you happen to be one of those people who knows your passion young: learn how to do it well!

      I always wanted to be a writer, but I believed that you had to be born with a sign over your head that said: this human is destined to write. Since I had no such sign, I never even considered writing as a career until 2007, when I turned 47 and needed something that I could do while staying home with my toddlers. That was a lot of decades spent not writing. (Or writing very little – when I made a list, I was surprised at how much writing I managed while “not writing.” But I could have done much more, if I’d allowed myself to seriously consider a writing career.)

      1. Me – I sort of vaguely knew that I wanted to be a writer … but that I also ought to have some real-life experience under my belt. I knew that all the writers that I really enjoyed reading, those from the mid-19th century on – had DONE SOMETHING else, or alongside their writing. Taking more creative writing courses and workshops and hanging on in academia for decades was absolutely the wrong way to go about it.
        So, I did other stuff – for about three and a half decades before I turned to calling myself a writer.
        Worked for me – because by the time I was ready to buckle down and apply myself seriously, I had a fund of shories and characters in mind, and had not been poisoned/corrupted by the Establishment Literary Establishment.

        1. I think I’m going to borrow your story, because it sounds so much better than mine. I started so late because I didn’t take rejection well, and programming was so much easier to get into (and so much in demand). It wasn’t until I was nearly 50 that I gave up giving up.

          1. Yeah, I was terribly afraid of the rejection slips at first — but I had been posting to a somewhat popular milbog and I had all sorts of validation from the regular readers, and from posters on other regular blogs … So I knew that, yeah, I was fair-to-middling-to good as a writer … so, when I actually got down to sending queries to establishment and getting the usual rejection letters, I could be quite insouciant about them, eventually. “Yeah, YOUR LOSS, a**hole” as I pitched them.
            having actually tested my writing and being validated through blogging – yes, the confidence gained – beyond price.

        2. Taking more creative writing courses and workshops and hanging on in academia for decades was absolutely the wrong way to go about it.

          Agreed. I wish I’d done more writing, but I have no desire to have gone the academic route. And, really, I can’t even regret that I dove in thoroughly when I did, because I might otherwise have been caught in the toils of trad pub. As it is, the timing was perfect. The indie world arrived just as I closed in on looking at publication options.

  5. It’s complicated. I’m a big Mike Rowe fan, and I think this is an important message. But…

    I have a decent day job, which I like and which pays the bills. I know that’s a fortunate position for a writer to be in: I DON’T have to write for the money. I CAN write for my passion,

    And the stories that I’m most passionate about are the one that sell. Maybe my passion hits a sweet spot in the market; but I have to wonder if I’m writing better BECAUSE of my passion.

    I suppose I could experiment. Make a good faith effort to write outside my specialty, and see if it sells. But it’s nearly impossible to turn that into a controlled experiment.

    1. This is a good point. If one needs to make enough money to live on, you have to write in genres where you can make a lot of money. But I think that there are enough for these that any writer should be able to find ones that they enjoy reading, have the academically or casually acquired background for, and can dig up some enthusiasm for, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of “passion.”

      For instance, my historical knowledge and knowledge of past cultures is lousy. As in practically non-existent. Even a historical romance would be difficult for me to write, and require huge amounts of research to even get close to correct. Paranormal romance, on the other hand, I could probably manage. Urban Fantasy. Mystery. Space Opera. Not too much of a problem. MilSF . . . would require some research. Westerns? See history above.

      So if you’re writing for a living, it seems possible to follow one’s interests, even if the passions are best spent on the early practice pieces, learning the craft of writing.

  6. I think there are arguments for both sides of that coin. First, though I’ll agree that switching into multiple genres is an excellent idea; after twenty-one MilSF novels I’m switching into fantasy and historical fiction to expand my range a little, and to stretch myself somewhat. (And there, I think, is another argument – in that pushing yourself into something you might not have considered can grow you as a writer, in the same logic that suggests that you need to read outside your certain genre.)

    The way I’ve always thought of it is this: I wouldn’t write in a genre that didn’t interest me, but I might choose which of my interests to follow depending on how the market looked at the moment. (And to be honest, writing fantasy is crazy, but I’m in the mood and have the opportunity to take a bit of a gamble on it.) I agree with the comment that a knowledge of the genre is essential, to know what are the usual tropes and which to be avoided, and it’s very hard to acquire that without an interest in the area.

    There is a difference, I believe, between fiction and non-fiction in this regard. If I was pushed to write a book about, say, the Exploration of Siberia, I could probably spend three or four months doing the research and put together something half-decent. Its a one-off area, and not one I have to work creatively in, whereas for a novel, inspiration is all.

    I actually think a look at the demographics suggests that the Western is due for a comeback, by the way. The readership in the genre trends quite old, and pickup of ebooks in that demographic is rising rapidly. Give it a year or two, and you could easily find yourself on the crest of a wave.

      1. From bits and snippets I’ve heard (from readers) yeah, it never really went away, just tradpub didn’t put out new westerns. What I would really like, somehow, is data on what stuff sells the fastest out of secondhand bookstores. Romance is a given, but what else are people seeking there they can’t find in tradpub or brick and mortar bookstores?

        1. That’s what I pretty much heard also – that readers of traditional westerns loved-loved-loved the genre, and would latch on to those writers who wrote in the Louis L amour-Elmer Kelton traditional Western style … but the establishment publishers considered Westerns to be infra dig.
          Ah, well – nothing like kicking your intended/potential audience in the teeth!

          1. I know some Western fans. Would you say that To Truckee’s Trail is written in that style? Or do you have something else that is a better fit.

            1. Hi, Bob – I think that To Truckee’s Trail would appeal to someone who likes classical Westerns, although I have always said it was more of a historical novel set on the 19th century frontier… but Lone Star Sons is more deliberately, consciously written as a classical western adventure.
              And The Quivera Trail plays with certain elements of the tradition – the tenderfoot, the trail drive, the bandits, the showdown … all that, but with a mild but not entirely-out-of-tradition twist.

        2. There’s a bookstore in Amarillo (used, almost literal hole-in-the-wall) that sells #1 westerns, #2 romance and #3 sci fi. That’s pretty much it, although they do have some used YA and general stuff. Make of it what ye will.

        3. Sabrina, I’ve reached out to a bookstore owner and he’s agreed to an interview. So I might not have raw numerical data for answers, but it should be interesting!

          1. Oooooh. Data! *makes little grabby motions* All the data! What books make his eyes light up because he knows it will sell, the ones he sighs at because they won’t…

            I went to Powells a few months ago with a big huge list of classic SF and other good books I hadn’t been able to grab. Like 30 or more. Found *maybe* four of them. Yet the Star Trek/Star Wars books were all over the place… (I compare only old books. In the new books I was amused to see the vast stretches of shelf space devoted to Eric Flint, John Ringo et al vs. Scalzi and co. Yes, I am a shallow person…)

    1. The Western never really went away. The big publishers just decided they didn’t want to print that type of book any more.

  7. > end result

    Pohl & Kornbluth’s “The Space Merchants” has a lengthy sequence where the main character talks about writing. He describes it as a learned skill and a tool, no different from a saw or a shovel.

    There aren’t really any quotable lines in that part, but the book is quite short if you haven’t read it already.

    It’s a pretty different take than the “writing as Art” or “driven author” schtick.

    I kept Pohl’s comments in mind when I was working in IT. A manager once commented on my knowledge and skill; it told her troubleshooting software and network problems was more like when the plumber uncouples fittings and reaches in to pull out three feet of something that looks like Alien afterbirth.

    Hey, how was I to know they’d put someone with a weak stomach in a management position…

    1. I have specific formal training that I’ve not been enormously successful at using.

      I tend to be mildly interested in everything, so I’m a self taught generalist.

      I get passionate about what I work on.

      I had enormous deficits in my writing, and it took a great many internet arguments to repair them.

      As far as I can tell, it is all the same process. Study prior art, study techniques, observe everything and use it as inspiration. The same creativity that let’s you figure out a repair you’ve never done let’s you design a machine, draw a picture, write code or tell a story. You need practice to get good, and some processes vary so much person to person that good instructions are tricky.

    2. The quotable line is that you don’t get a quotable line. The door closes before the copywriter emits the final metaphor. Again, Pohl’s not wrong, and there are people who write anything for a living. Then there are novelists. One is a subset of the other.

  8. I came into this writing rather ,,, bass-ackwards – through blogging, and before that, military broadcasting – in which I had to do a LOT of writing, sometimes technical, mostly official, and sometimes creatively. I think that eventually, I became pretty adept at writing to order, whatever the requirement was.
    It is good to stretch, though – and not get into a rut. I branched out in one way with a YA series of short adventures, and in another with a series of contemporary regional comedy books co-written with my daughter, who has all kinds of interesting notions for characters and blot, and the beginnings of a gift for plotting.
    I guess that I am in the middle, too – it is a job but you should expect to enjoy the creative aspects.

  9. I started writing out of boredom… Too many hours on airplanes and in hotel rooms… It was either write or get drunk… And I couldn’t afford to get drunk. 🙂

      1. Ah, you’ve been in academia too! *exchanges secret gang sign with TXRed* That got me as well, along with “my favorite authors don’t write fast enough.” Although the one guy who got off with manslaughter for bludgeoning his thesis advisor to death (after being strung along for over a decade)…after that, they started enforcing the max degree time rule and other little customs 😀

  10. Lots of food for thought.

    I am an eclectic reader; ranging from horror to hard sf, urban fantasy and pretty much everything in between (with the exception of pretentious ‘let’s freak out the burgeois sensibilities of the mundanes to prove my superiority’ crap). As a writer, I always knew I wanted to try my hand at multiple genres and genre-blends.

    However, if I don’t feel, if not passionate, at least mildly enthused about a project, I know it’s not going to end well. I’ll either half-arse it or procrastinate to death. I don’t care how much money it’d make me, I couldn’t sit down and write a Harlequin romance, for example (I do have a paranormal romance sitting somewhere in my hard drive, but it’s going to take some work before even considering showing it to the public). So in my case, there has to be a happy medium. I recently returned an advance for a tabletop RPG project after I realized my heart wasn’t in it, and given that I only have so many writing hours left in me, I don’t want to spend any of them on something that felt like pulling teeth. Maybe if the alternative was starvation my reaction would have been different, but I’ve been so far fortunate in making enough money writing things I enjoy that I can be picky about what I write next. In five years, who knows? I might be ghost-writing media tie-ins for food. There are no guarantees in this biz.

    On the third tentacle, I do take the market’s responses very seriously. My favorite book so far is an action-horror that was a lot of fun to write and, IMHO, my best work technically. However, it has sold one tenth of what my supers novels did, and one hundredth of my mil-sf numbers. So that series is on the back burner while I concentrate on what pays the rent.

  11. Passion can ruin your judgment, too. Sad cases where authors who write immortal literature that they deem miserable hackwork, and unreadable lumps when they are pouring their hearts into it.

    1. Not just authors. One of the instructors at my school had an Emmy for directing a Hill Street Blues episode, and thought the episode was garbage.

Comments are closed.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: