Have you ever gotten an idea for a book, essay, article, or blog post, and simply sat down and began writing? When the so-called “light bulb” turned on, and the flow of passion began cursing through your writer’s veins, you knew you simply had to write about whatever subject was on your mind. That’s an amazing feeling.
Sometimes, however, we have an idea for a book, essay, article, or blog post that we know will help us in some way. This piece of writing might help us get where we are going, build our platform, fit into the niche we are creating for ourselves, get us noticed, build readership, etc. So, we get excited, and we pursue the project, because it feels right and we know it fits into the “big picture.” That’s a pretty good feeling, too.
For the last eight or nine years, I’ve spent a lot of my time doing the latter–writing with a purpose in mind. During that time, a lot of projects I started and pursued briefly have been left by the wayside while I created a platform, found a niche, built a readership, and so on. This past week, however, I began thinking about the difference between these two types of writing–writing with a purpose vs. writing with a passion–and where they fall into a writer’s career.
I did this as I listened to the guest speaker, Gerard Jones, at the California Writer’s Club South Bay January meeting. Jones is the author of books Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book (2004), which won the Eisner Award; Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy,Superheroes and Make-Believe Violence (2002); andHoney, I’m Home! Sitcoms: Selling the American Dream (1993). Jones has written for Marvel Comics and DC Comics, as well as for Wonder Man, The Shadow,Pokémon, and Batman.With Will Jacobs, he co-authored The Beaver Papers: The Story of the Lost Season (1983). As he told his story he mentioned that sometimes, as in the case of a few of his more recent works, you just have to write something because you feel strongly about it, not because it fits into your niche or because someone tells you it’s sure seller.
From what he said, his first book, The Beaver Papers, seems to have just fallen together. It was a work of some passion. Later, he worked tended to work on books that had more of a purpose. Now, he has started working on projects that once again his heart and his passions dictate.
I think that this illustrate how many a writer gets started and progresses, especially in the current publishing world. We begin a book, or some writing project, because our heart, soul or passion leads us in that direction. We believe in it and feel we just must get it written and published. Along the way, we learn the publishing ropes, and we start playing the publishing “game,” doing the things we are “supposed to do.” We write with the purpose of become successful writers and authors. Then somewhere along the line, we decide we must once again write because our hearts, souls and passions drive us to do so. Maybe it at that point we become the best writers we can become, because we can put all the knowledge we have gained to use with our passion. Indeed, then passion and purpose come together.
For myself, I see now that the projects I left by the wayside must be picked up once again. My passion for them is beginning to rise again. My soul and my heart are crying out to write from that place once more. I see now, in hindsight, how I can improve these projects. (Time and experience make a writer wiser…) I’m ready to move forward with them one way or another–to try again to find a traditional publisher or simply to self-publish because I know the information deserves to be in the world for people to read. My passion tells me so. Even Jones has turned to some non-traditional forms of publishing, despite his traditional publishing track record. The publishing world has opened up to those with both purpose and passion.
So, I conclude that writing with purpose need not be better or worse than writing with passion. They each have a place and time in a writer’s career. Additionally, they can–and should–be employed together to succeed as a writer today.