On Writing,  publishing

A Post Very Much Worth Reading

From Steven Barnes…

Steve put up this great post on Facebook talking about how a writer can kill his own joy and purpose in writing. Sadly, I know exactly who he is talking about. I met the person he talks about a number of times and it was exactly as Steve said. I even got that same card and was just as disturbed by it.

I constantly tell people to not write to market, to write what they love, that doing anything else is a quick path to the end of your writing. So if you don’t listen to me on this, listen to Steve. He says it so much better than I ever could.

Posted by Steven Barnes on Monday, December 17, 2018


  • Philip

    This is why I’ve become more and more comfortable in my mind as a writer with the idea that perhaps I’m “just” a short story writer. I love writing shorts because I can easily be prolific and easily jump to any genre or topic or character imaginable. Will I ever become rich? No chance. But based on your post about making a living on shorts only, and thanks to the example of the great Ray Bradbury (or other short greats like Andre Dubus or Raymond Carver), I’m totally fine being a short form writer.

    I’ll write my first novel when the characters finally demand I write them that long. Until then, it’s shorts for my own pleasure.

    • dwsmith

      Philip, I did nothing but short stories for years and years. Not a thing wrong with that and I still manage 40-50 per year to this day. It adds up. (grin)

    • Jeremy

      Same here Philip. I love writing short stories and I love reading them. But at times I do feel some pressure to write a novel. I try to remember to keep it fun, and short stories are fun for me. If a novel ever comes out of me, great. If not, I still got a ton of short stories under my belt.

  • J.M. Ney-Grimm

    Wow, that was powerful. Heartbreaking. Inspiring.

    Thanks so much for sharing the link. Makes me realize that I’ve been listening to the whispers of fool’s gold a little too much lately.

    Now, in the wake of Steve Barnes’ words—”Do that…and the child within is safe. And then…you are being an adult, doing the rough, hard things that adults have always done to protect their children.”—I hear the call to return to myself and to back my inner artist for all that I am worth. I needed that!

  • Sean McLachlan

    Spot on, especially the part about slipping what you love into work you’re doing for money. If you can do that for an episode of Baywatch you can do it for anything. I do a lot of ghostwriting, books where I get a flat fee and never get recognition, but I put parts of me into every one of them. It makes my day more fun and more rewarding, keeps me loving what I do for a living, and (I believe) keeps the clients coming back for more.

  • Raymund Eich

    One point that struck me in Steve’s post was the idea that hack work is, in part, a matter of perspective. He found a way to make a Baywatch script matter to him. It reminded me, Dean, of your comment that even when you did work-for-hire, it was only in universes you loved, like Star Trek.

    That said, I’m glad we’re working in the indie era, where we don’t have to write to market at all.

    • dwsmith

      Yeah, slipped twice in all those books into things I didn’t want to write. Both were like going to a dentist and I swore I would never write anything I didn’t want to be a part of or couldn’t love again after those. Even then, I still burnt out on the traditional publishing stupidity. Not the writing, the systems around the writing.

  • Erik

    Dean, do you have any thoughts or advice (heh, of course you do, but how about any you’re willing to share?) on how to keep the joy and fun of writing alive? Or how to recover it if you’ve let the business side and world into your head?

  • J. D. Brink

    Wow, that was good stuff. It’d be hard to resist the lure, though, when everything we talk about as indies is reaching that golden ring and *money* is what sets us free of the day job. That’s the trick, i guess, as Steve said. Always do something you believe in and are proud of, even if it actually pays!
    I also like to say: “Don’t write for your wallet. Your wallet can’t read.”