Writing to sell or selling out?

“Booker T. and W.E.B.” by Dudley Randall is a poem describing the ideological differences between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. One advocated conformity to pursue change, while the other bucked conformity to propel change.

It seems to me that conformity/nonconformity is a challenge every artist must take to task: produce what the market demands to increase in influence and then branch out into your own interests? Or, branch out into your own interests and alter the market‘s demands?

Every Tuesday, I meet with a small writing critique group. Our fearless leader raves about her famous author superfriends who pump out four books a year.

Between having social media Tourette’s and being a “solopreneur,” I can’t match that production. Even if I wrote every day, I doubt I could finish four books in one year. It would dilute the Kool-Aid of my creativity.

How do they do it? Jackie says their writing is formulaic. Either that’s a backhanded compliment from her or a direct insult. I can’t figure out which.

Writing a book is difficult. But if it follows a pre-set template, it’s much easier. Formulaic writing sells and has launched many a New York Times Bestseller. It’s the bread and butter of movies, television shows, etc.

Think of how many police dramas and medical programs are currently airing on television. Add in the spin-offs of those shows, and the pilots of new shows hoping to replicate that success.

Do you conform and hope to bank on the popular zeitgeist-of-the-moment, or you innovate and take the chance of being overlooked? There’s risk on both sides.

Urban literature is white hot right now, but the market is flooded with works ranging from the well-done to the undercooked.

Besides, how many times can a good girl go bad or an upstanding man get caught up? Can betrayal, love gone wrong, and difficulty = turning to the streets still captivate your interest?

It seems to me that formulaic writing is not necessarily selling out, unless you have a heart to do something different and delay doing it on the basis on money. Fame, influence, and money can become addictive. If you start out with compromise, who is to say you’ll ever accomplish what your heart desires?

I choose to buck the trend. If you prefer a formula, to paraphrase Mr. Randall, it seems to me that we won’t agree 🙂

One thought on “Writing to sell or selling out?

  1. VERY good. So many writers run into this and define it as a “problem”, but it’s really an opportunity to determine who you are, your mission statement as a writer, and the demographics of your desired audience. Good show, Mr. Thompson! : )

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