Writer First v Academic First

I’m a full-time writer, not a traditional English professor. Thankfully, I’m employed in a wonderful English department that does embrace writing, from academic to mass market.

I do not have APA and MLA formatting memorized. I don’t care if you end a sentence with a preposition as long as readers enjoy the writing. When you write for the mass media, a preposition can be a fine thing to end a sentence with. The primary task of a writer is to retain readers. It turns out, few readers enjoy pretentious lectures.

It is my theory that working as a creative writer does make me a better writing and literature instructor. This is certainly the philosophy of many MFA programs, though they tend to be more literary than mass market in focus. I’m unabashedly about the “massiest market” I can obtain.

My goal as a writer is to have an audience. I don’t care if they remember I wrote something; I care that they remember what I wrote. Most of my blogs, columns, and the books I’ve written don’t include my name. Writing pseudonymously is ideal to me; words are the focus, not me.

Admittedly, I also like getting paid for what I write. There’s nothing wrong with being a “professional” writer, and “literary” authors are every bit the professionals as their mass market peers. I know because I’ve discussed appearance and speaking fees with a few literary authors. When you charge $20,000 or more (a lot more in several cases) to speak somewhere, you’re in business.

If readers don’t enjoy my columns, stories, plays, or other works, I don’t get paid. It’s a simple way to know if I’m writing effectively or not. When people stop wanting to read my works, I’ll stop getting paid. I don’t sit around waiting to be inspired because magazines, websites, and production companies have deadlines.

I love writing. I live to write. I don’t live to please the grammar gods or some academic committee. While I believe writers need to remember their audiences, I also am part of that audience. The best writers I know write what they want to read and read nearly as much as they write. Good writers seek out works they wish they had written. Words are their lives.

If you want teach writing, you should love writing.

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