Focus on the intersection of what we want to write with what we can sell
The goal of every writer is to make money with his or her art.
I’m sure some of you are shaking your heads over this statement. You insist you don’t care if you make money or not. You just want to write. I get it. I even agree—to an extent. But it’s not true, not deep down.
If you claim you don’t care about the cash, let me meddle a bit. Writers who say they don’t concern themselves with money fit one of three categories: they are independently wealthy, they are lowering expectations to avoid disappointment, or they are lying to themselves. Since I don’t know any writers who are independently wealthy, that leaves the other two categories. Which one describes you? Think about it. Seriously consider this. Admit the true, unspoken, deep desire of your writing heart: you want to make money writing. Then keep reading.
I love Venn diagrams. They communicate so much in so little space. Venn diagrams help me understand writing. Of all the things I can write, represented by the box, the things I’m passionate about fit in the first circle. This is where I find joy. When I tap my passion, I can write all day; I skip meals and sleep isn’t important.
Also within the box of all the things I could write sits a second circle. It represents all the types of writing that sell. Staying within this box presents the opportunity to make money with words.
Where the two circles intercept is our sweet spot, where passion and profits converge. This is where we need to focus our writing—not all of the time but most of it.
Yes, sometimes I take a short break to write what I enjoy even though it doesn’t pay and never will. Other times I write what pays even though it falls outside my passion. (Though I’m not zealous about those projects, I only pick ones I will enjoy and am good at. To do otherwise would be author suicide.)
My hope for every author is that your passion circle will overlap the marketability circle. We all need our sweet spot so we can pursue our art and pay the bills. But if your circles don’t share any common ground, then know this truth: sometimes you will write for a paycheck and other times you will write for the joy of it. The first allows you to feed the second.
May we all find joy and money when we write.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.