You know how to take care of business as a nonfiction writer. You’re professional. You attend to all the details of putting your writing into the world from analyzing your audience to zeroing in on new ways to promote your writing.
But all this serious business stuff is probably not why you started writing. You started because it was fun, intriguing, challenging and profoundly gratifying to create meaning with words. The writing part of writing – the inspiration, research, drafting and revising – is art. The publishing part is business. We need both.
Writers must attend to both the business side and the art side of our lives.
Challenging as it is, creating art is where we find joy. Publishing is where we hope to find satisfaction and success, but where we’re far more likely to find disappointment.
The economic facts of publishing are dismal for writers in both nonfiction and fiction. Focusing primarily on publishing can quickly demoralize us and amplify our resistance.
For several months, I focused on the business side, searching for an agent and publisher for my novel Essential Path. As long as I made and honored commitments to drafting, revising and polishing a query letter, synopsis and first chapters, I had enough creative challenge to keep me content.
But contentment faded and resistance grew as the search became all about researching agents and tracking my submissions and their polite “Thanks, but not for us” emails. Yes, I was in transition, but that wasn’t the only reason it was getting harder to show up.
I needed to return to the art side. In the past few weeks, I officially launched a new novel, Freedom Path. I intend to spend 80% of my Product Time on the art side.
I can’t tell you how happy this makes me!
After all this time, I shouldn’t be surprised by how quickly the resistance that had been kicking my butt faded. Sometimes resistance is a message that you need to find a better balance of art side/business side.
I feel compelled to emphasize that I’m not giving up on Essential Path. As soon as I get feedback on my query, synopsis and first chapter from the agent I worked with in an online class, I’ll revise and resume the search. I’ll be diligent and persistent. This will undoubtedly be a source of many minor disappointments. I hope it will eventually be the source of satisfaction and accomplishment. But I doubt it will be a source of real joy.
And that’s okay because I’m devoting 80% of my Product Time to the joy of creating. That’s the balance that’s working for me now.
What Balance of Business and Art Works for You?
The optimal balance differs for every writer and it changes as circumstances change. Only you can decide what percent of your Product Time you want and need to give to the art side and what to give the business side.
You might decide to give all of your Product Time to the art side, especially when you’re starting a new project. Some writers never make the business of publishing the goal.
The only way to get the gratification of knowing my books made a difference in a reader’s life is to invest some of my time to publishing. I’d like to earn that gratification with my novels, too. But even if I never publish a novel, I will keep writing them. That’s where the joy is.
Your non-writing friends and family might not understand what the point of writing is if you don’t publish. That’s okay. You don’t need them to understand; you only need them to respect your right to choose.
What we can’t do, at least not for long if we want to sustain our creative health, is focus exclusively on the business side.
What’s your optimum blend of art and business? Has it changed recently? Might it need to change soon?
Rosanne Bane is author of Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance and the blog BaneOfYourResistance.com, which TheWriteLife.com named one of the 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2016. For nearly 30 years, Rosanne has worked with emerging and established writers in all genres as a creativity coach and Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.