Is Writing Business, Art - or Something Else
Of Writing and Purpose
Born just outside Boston, Massachusetts, I grew up particularly aware, perhaps, of the role of the written word in American history. In elementary school I walked the streets of Boston's Freedom Trail, and stood inside the Old North Church. Of course, in elementary school one doesn't really have a true appreciation of such things - only that it was part of something very important that went on in history and that led to the American Colonies' becoming an independent nation.
A few years later I would better appreciate that role of the written word, the power of ideas, and the need for people to speak and write freely, particularly when as they looked around, they noticed things that were wrong; or worse, that oppressed other human beings. So, I admired the all those people who had worked so hard not just to stand up for the freedom of the Colonists, but to go on and become the architects of a nation built on that principle. I had no illusions of ever doing anything particularly important with writing. I just knew that nothing much gets accomplished or fixed without it.
So, from way back then right up until this very minute, I've seen the potential power of the written word and have very much appreciated having been taught that English grammar so well back in that old, wooden, school that had no gym, no cafeteria, no auditorium, and pretty much no anything else other than classrooms and halls.
Elsewhere on this page I made the statement that I view writing as similar to walking - a basic skill that those of us fortunate enough to do either can use for any number of different purposes. With writing, while so many purposes are short-term or narrowly focused (often self-focused too), some types of writing don't just serve a purpose but help us to have our own.
I don't imagine I'll be using my writing skill to start a new country or otherwise do anything particularly important or large-scale. That's the thing about writing with some kinds of purpose in mind, though - some changes and ideas don't have to be big or important. They just have to have the potential of making some small difference to someone, in some small way.
Not long ago I happened upon an online discussion, asking writers if they viewed their online writing as "art" or as "business". I didn't get involved because for someone like me, ever the stickler for accuracy, the answer to that question just wasn't simple. I could have found a way to answer, I suppose, without explaining. Then again, though, what would be point? Why reply to a question with, "It's not that simple for me," but then not explain why it isn't...
After thinking about all the ways in which I view writing and its many purposes for me, I decided to put my personal take on the matter into a Hub; not because I think anyone will find any of it particularly interesting but because I just wanted to write something that highlighted the fact that not every online writer sees his writing as an " either/or" thing (whether business or art). Also, however, I wanted (no, needed, maybe) to really, completely, talk about all the reasons/purposes I have when I write.
Most of the following thoughts (appropriately enough) relate directly to that question of "writing or business", and some others introduce some other purposes. There's one that doesn't really seem right to include here; but since my aim was to include pretty much every purpose or reason that factors into my online writing, I realized I wouldn't feel right not including it.
So, what I did was write the Hub, put a finishing touch on with a video at the end, and then - far down toward the bottom of the page - I've added what I'm sure is going to look like a peculiar (at best) thread that runs through, or behind, a lot of my online writing. Because it is so peculiar, or at least not one the more common reasons people write, I explained in what amounts to a long story. When it comes down to it, I suppose what I've really tried to do here is to take the subject of online writing away from the usual discussions of SEO, traffic, trends or self-publishing one's novel or life story; and, instead, to some of the other kinds of things that someone who writes might be factoring into his work.
I did consider leaving off that "extra bit" at the bottom of the page, but it wouldn't stand alone very well anywhere else. And, when all is said and done (and whether or not I've stashed it far down at the bottom of the page) that additional-yet-secondary (by far) purpose I have for writing is not a minor one for me.
One Writer's Thoughts On The Purpose Of Writing
Writing is something that I see as a basic skill - like walking. They're just skills we use to accomplish other things, but sometimes they may be skills we use just because we want or need to use them for one reason or another. Reading is another skill, but I mention walking because it's so basic.
Writing is a business for me, and it's seldom something I treat as art. Because I see it as a business, however, I kind of see it as, for example, a department store. My businesses offers a a wide variety of stuff. Or, I see it as a whole retail/professional mall or complex that may have any number of businesses leasing space there, whether they be a jewelry store or maybe a cell-phone place.
So, I see it as a business and treat each "department" or individual business separately. But, I turned that basic skill of writing into a business; and I don't forget its uses in "general life". Writing is a communication skill, and I see it not only as every bit as basic, but important. as walking, but more so.
For Some Online Writers (Or At Least Me, Anyway) It Can Be A Little More Complicated
With the writing I do on the Internet, and the circumstances under which I write on "these" writing sites I make money, but I'm willing to settle for less because I can make money writing (or doing other things completely) other places/ways. Although I do make money with the kind of writing I do on the Internet, I don't really see this particular type of writing from a business angle. I see it from a personal angle, and most often my motives for writing this type of stuff are about either sharing what I've learned through previous work, life experiences and/or personal interest; which makes for, maybe, an odd combination of some information mixed with insight.
Why, and How Things Can Get Complicated For Some Writers
My real passion lies with social sciences, but I didn't go into that area because back when I was in school science and technology were coming into full bloom, and "everyone" told students that's where the money was; and "nobody makes much money as a social worker". To be honest, I suppose I was angry that those of us who knew how important it was to "get things right" when it comes to understand "human-related" things just wasn't valued. (Well, it was valued up to a point, but only the same way that, say, the need to nurture babies is valued.) Wonderful and useful as technology is, and wonderful and lucrative as business can be; neither is going to do the world a lot of good if most of the individuals and/or families are suffering and/or messed up in some way.
(My second passion and natural leaning was writing; but as with social-sciences, students (at least those who, or particularly those who, attended working-class, public, schools) "Word" was that "nobody makes any money writing")..
So, I made "human-related" subjects and issues my "hobby", not just because it was a personal passion but because, as a mother and a "person-in-general" I thought it was important for everyone, but particularly mothers, to educate themselves as much as possible about "all things human" and that didn't just include social sciences, but areas of science including, for example, brain development and learning . Using, or being committed to finding, whatever time I could to educate myself, pursue my real passions (which were essentially the "human-related" issues and reading meant that I could "multi-task" in a way that my children, I, and (with the help of writing) someone else could, or at least may possibly, benefit. Win, win and - who knows - maybe win (at least in some small way somehow).
Occasionally, Writing Is Art For Me
While the percentage of writing that I do for the purposes of art is extremely low, writing is sometimes "nothing more than art" for me. "Art-writing" can be fun and/or challenging for the person who tends to enjoy most forms of writing.
Still, the only time I treat writing as art is when I take a break from writing that is business/work, or writing that is my passion, or writing that is both; and dabble in something creative, like poetry/verse or non-fiction stories. It can get kind blurred at times (which is why I have what seems like a bizarre and difficult-to-fathom load of writing online that attempts to sort and/or explain what on Earth "my deal is", but which is necessary on an Internet that generally separates business writing from artistic writing - and seldom seems to realize that writing has the potential of being so much more than either
And Yet One More Purpose For Writing
The fact is I have writing (online or off) that adds to my income, writing that doesn't, and writing that does but only does a little. Either way, most of it at least has the potential of serving some purpose that I have. And, there's yet another purpose for my writing is that even writing that never earns me a penny, or never contributes a thing to someone else's life, will be there if I ever have grandchildren or great-grandchildren who might benefit from, or be interested in, knowing a little more about the issues of life and the world in this (my) time and for me (their grandmother or great-grandmother, who wanted them to see a part of their history and roots.
Win, win, maybe win, and win.
Below are some additional purposes that writing can serve for me. They aren't primary purposes, but they do factor in when I'm considering how I view writing.
Writing As Part Of Learning
While I didn't need to write as a way of learning how to write better, or practice writing in general; when I first discovered writing sites it wasn't all that long after the Internet, itself, had first arrived on "the scene". While, oddly enough, back in the late 1970's I'd actually taken some training on "Search" and as part of working in a research-related capacity that involved both needing to learn how to use "the new" (but dial-up and paid-for) databases that were both general and financial; while many of the concepts of Search hadn't really changed, how those concepts applied to writers (as opposed to researchers) was new to me. So, I took my basic knowledge of Search, began writing on the Internet in order to get a better feel for what else I needed to learn, and carved out some extra time for learning what I needed to know about writing for the Internet.
Actually being on those writing sites helped give me direction with regard to additional things about which I needed to learn as someone writing online. (Depending on which of my many purposes for writing it is that I have in mind as I write one thing or another, I don't always use those things, but I have the basics and a little more if/when a piece of writing requires it.)
Writing As A Way Of Practicing Writing-On-Demand
When I originally got involved with "writing sites" it was while I was looking for full-time employment during a time when the economy was particularly bad, but also following a truly complicated and bizarre "divorce situation".
Because I wasn't able to find work (for reasons related, or presumed to be related) to one or both of the above, I decided to try to get back into freelance writing, which, again, I'd done when my children were babies and/or very young. It had been awhile, however, since I'd taken assignments, so when I discovered writing sites that told people (not particularly in the following words), "Write whatever you want to write," or Write what you know," or "Here are some titles. Pick whichever one strikes your fancy," I saw it as a good way to practice writing-on-demand.
Since I wasn't working anyway, I saw that as a good way to make sure I could get back to writing what someone else told me to write; because another consequences of that divorce situation I mentioned was that I was living under extreme and exhausting stress and wasn't sure I had the "mental energy" needed for writing anything other than what writing about what interested me.
So, while I'd had experience writing, and while I was confident in my "technical skill" as a writer, I just didn't know if I - well - be bothered having to make myself care about anything other than my own kids, my own problems and my own aims. Writing on those sites allowed me to see that I could, in fact, write on demand; so that allowed me to comfortably commit to taking work without worrying that I'd get into the "I-can't-be-bothered-doing-this mode".
So, Why Do You Write Online? (That Is If You Write Online At All, Of CourseSee results without voting
So, Whether You Write Only Online Or Offline As Well, What Is Writing To You - Art Or Business?See results without voting
Writing As Self-Defense
Now this one, I know, is (needless to say) not one of the more common purposes for writing, but it is behind any number of things that I write online.
While there's a whole, big, long story and situation to this particular purpose I have for writing, I'll keep it as brief as possible in view of the fact that I'm now writing about purposes for writing - not my personal story.
So, long story short (as they say)... Well, actually, long story long - but separated from the main part of this page: When I left my marriage there was a whole lot of misunderstanding and panic among my husband and a few relatives that he'd recruited as support, mainly because I did something that shocked them all. I took my three kids with me when I left the house one morning, so it wasn't like I did anything like leave my children behind (which WOULD have been real reason for these people to think I'd done something out-of-character, even insane). I wasn't insane or anything close to it (in fact I have, in a box not far from where I sit right now, a report from the psychiatrist who said just that).
In any case, when I left my marriage someone called the authorities, which further complicated the whole mess. I was shaken to the core and terrified when I was picked up for a mental-health "check" but then released a few hours later, but only after being intimidated. Once the authorities had become involved things were, in a lot of ways, out of the hands of the relatives, or relative, or husband (I still don't know) who had called them.
Whether for reasons of arrogance, ego, or potential lawsuit or disciplinary action, nobody in "The System" acknowledged the ridiculous mistake that had been made when I simply had left my marriage (and for fairly "non-dramatic" reasons). Among people in my personal life and inner circle, my now ex-husband did say he was sorry and that was not what he wanted to happen. I tend to believe he was. Somewhere not awfully long after the "horror" went on, and I'd had the chance to really explain some things to her, my mother said, "I'm sorry. I didn't know." Since she was the one who told me to hide from an ambulance that showed up out of the blue (and before the police would later on arrive), I know that my mother didn't want me picked up. So, one thing was that it was clear that once the authorities had become (been invited to become, actually) involved nobody in my family had a lot of say.
As frightening (and disgusting) as it all was, I'm a strong person and one who understands that mistakes (even ridiculous ones) are often made, and that misunderstandings happen. I could have gotten over what went on fairly quickly (almost immediately, probably) if anyone from "The System" had acknowledged that it had been established that a mistake had been made, and that I was perfectly healthy. They didn't. So, besides not really knowing what anyone in my inner, personal, circle actually believed; I knew that even if they understood the truth they had little say in what else might happen. Also, while those two people I mentioned did express regrets over the ambulance and police incident, they didn't also say, "Of course, I know you're absolutely fine." They simply said they hadn't wanted me picked up against my will. Many things were said, or presented to "court people", that pretty much made it clear to me that at least some people still had their doubts about my mental health. Eventually, my husband would become an ex-husband, who, of course, would be excluded from having any input at all; and my mother died.
The attorney who was supposed to represent me would not (or maybe could not, as a result of, possibly, a gag order) give me any information or advice whatsoever. So, with no information about anything at all from the attorney, with my husband and ex-husband, and my mother gone; I was left with a small inner circle that included my not-then grown children, a few other relatives and/or in-laws, and a few friends who either don't know what to think and weren't involved at the time, or else aren't in a position of speaking on, or against, my behalf. Just outside that inner circle are people who are - well - outsiders and have nothing to do with anything in my personal life.
What I learned from the experience, however, was the people in my inner circle really don't know me, or else they knew me but not as well I would have imagined. Part of it was my fault, I suppose, for not sharing every little thing I was doing in life, for not explaining it better, for thinking it was a good thing not to "make a big deal about" my accomplishments or aims, or even for standing up for myself better when I knew someone was critical of something I was doing. I shouldn't have had to do any of those things, though. I was a well adjusted, energetic, productive, and capable adult who had a great relationship with her three exceptional children, who enjoyed them, and who managed pretty much every part of life alone because my husband worked long hours, didn't get involved in much at home, and saw raising children as "women's work".
At the time, what people in my inner circle didn't know (because I would never had told them) was that while I certainly trusted that they wouldn't do anything to hurt me, I didn't trust their judgment about any number of things in life. (Now that I've shared what I have above would anyone blame me?). While there had been that time when I knew that I couldn't trust the judgment of some of these people (at least with regard to me and my personal life), after what went on I had come to see the degree to which their not really knowing me, or seeing the person I am, could present some very serious problems for me and my children. Having had that whole "original episode" having been brewed behind my back, what had been once "not trusting judgment" had turned, in a lot of ways, into "not trusting at all" (or at least "not trusting at all, other than to know someone wouldn't intentionally do anything to hurt me" - but that road to hell, as they say, is often paved with good (or misguided) intentions.
Even with all that, had anyone in my inner circle said to me, "I know you are perfectly fine and have always been perfectly fine, so you don't have to worry about me calling anyone else about concerns I have about you," I pretty much could have relaxed/could relax. OR, if I had ever gotten in writing from The System just a letter that says the same thing I could know that The System recognized and acknowledged the mistake that had been made years ago, and that if of those involved with "being concerned about me" back then were to call anyone in The System, I wouldn't have to worry about their being taken seriously. As it was when I first began writing online (and as it is now), while I haven't been out-and-out worried that suddenly someone is going to come pick me up again; not only can't I feel completely certain about that, but also I do continue to hope that what happened will be discovered (if it hasn't been already but without my being told for some reason related, perhaps, to ongoing litigation appeals,, gag orders, etc.).
So, for any number of reasons related to that whole situation to make clear "where I'm coming from" both to make sure that who and what I am, and what I spend my time thinking about or writing about comes from me - not someone else. This may seem extreme and "paranoid", but over the years (and even fairly recently) I've run into people who think I won't or cant' remember some things, who don't think I'm capable of working, and even some local police who have stopped me on my walks and asked me things like whether I'm alright, what my name is, where I live, and even other questions that are generally reserved for people who's mental clarity is in doubt. There was one woman from my community who began to tell me where I could get help for alcoholism. (I don't know where that one even came from, particularly since months, even years, pass between the occasional half-glass of wine I'll rarely have.) Someone else once asked me if I had a drug problem. (That one was even more amazing than the alcohol one!) AND, even after I told that person I did not he asked me again on a few more occasions.
We're always hearing (even though we generally already know) that we really shouldn't be worried about who thinks what of us. I never used to. I lived my life and took care of my own business, and didn't bother anyone. I thought that was all anyone had to do until I learned better.
So, yet another reason that I write online is that I have this idea that if anyone ever is "concerned about" or " wonders about" me all he has to do is look up my name online, and see who and what I am - for good, bad, or otherwise. It may be interesting to note, however, that for all the writing I have online, with the exception of a couple of poems (and possibly one article years ago), nobody in my inner circle or even my circle just outside that inner one, has ever acknowledged to me that he's read anything I've written. Maybe some have read my writing and just assume I wouldn't want them to because they know I'm generally a private person (but I'm not such a stupid one that I don't know how to write and keep it a secret from inner-circle people). Maybe some just aren't interested or just don't ever read anything much (I've had people tell me both.) Or, maybe some do think that while I'm not "out-and-out" insane, I'm "off" enough not to write anything worth reading.
It doesn't matter because it's not likely to change. I do what feels safest for me, which is to put my writing out beyond any "firewall" of inner circles or any "bad-information files" within The System; and let the chips, the money, and the opinions fall where they may.
Now, am I worried that the police are going to come after me after all these years? No. It never would have occurred to me at that time (any more that it would occur to most other people) that - from out the apparent blue - things like ambulances and/or police cars would be showing up. As I said, however, without some kind of acknowledgement or reassurance that all was figured out (and figured out correctly), I can't really feel sure. I'd be stupid if I did. All it would take (as I said before) would be something in writing from someone in The System, or even someone in my personal circle to say, "We all figured out that you're absolutely fine, and I promise you you don't have to worry about that ever happening again because we know better now." No one has ever said that, so what am I supposed to think?
Writing as self-defense poses its own risks as far as my appearing to have mental-health issues goes, I know; but the only alternative is not to write as self-defense at all; which would be mean whatever went on back when I left my marriage, but also in the years that was follow shortly after, would never be straightened out or corrected. Even that I could live with or work around or get past if it didn't affect my quality of life today, but it does - and severely.
More by this Author
Written in response to a reader's request for an article on coping with life without parents, this Hub offers thoughts that address this situation. The challenge of coping is different for everyone, depending on the...
You don't have to be "a big neat freak" to be bothered by the habits of a roommate who just doesn't care about cleaning or pick up at all. What can you do?
Quick tricks for find percentages without a calculator. In order to find x percent of any number the general way of doing that is to multiply the number by the percentage. Since percentage means hundredths of any...