Writing is a profession. Writing is a game. Writing is a calling. Writing is therapy. Writing is like sex.
Writing means many different things to many different people. There are those who say they are compelled to write because if they don’t it just hurts, like it’s some sort of cancer that needs to be gotten rid of. Others say they write because they want to. Some enjoy it, some say it’s painful or cathartic. I think the commonality that binds most of these people, though, is the desire to be published, and to be read by as many people as possible, whether it’s for the money, the glory, or the release.
That being said, do you write for your audience, or do you write for yourself first? Do you follow established trends and popular themes, or do you establish your own?
It’s a difficult question. If you buck the trends and go out on a limb, you risk not finding a lot of readers. Or you find the ones for whom you fill their particular niche. Which is better? To sell to the masses or to the few?
We see definite patterns in writing, as in film. When a theme is successful, you can count on its being duplicated over and over and over, each author hoping to hit the same home run and produce a winner of his own. Some of these are good, some are mere pale imitations of the first one, the bestseller, and contain no original thought. Then you also run the risk of glutting the market, and seeing the trend die out. What if you vary the theme? Add some spice to it or your own brand of whatever? Does that help? Sometimes, sometimes not. Originality is not always its own reward, sometimes it can be a curse. If something is too original, sometimes it isn’t accepted.
Even the successful authors face criticism over their originality. The Twilight series is undoubtedly successful, but there are a lot of people out there willing to make fun of Stephanie Meyer’s dazzling vampires. It was an original idea, though, and one which I thought had merit. It explained why her vampires chose not to go out in the sun, preferring the darkness and gloom. I like that idea better than having vampires go poof if exposed to sunlight, like in the old Hammer films.
So what is an author to do?
Do you go for the bucks, the quick and easy sale? Do you pander to the taste of the multitude? Or do you write what’s in your heart and let the chips fall where they may?
There is no easy answer, it’s an individual decision that needs to be made. But I think that the Bard said it best: To thine own self be true.
I intend to do so, for as long as I can.