Writing is… Business. Art. Craft.

When someone casually states, as if revealing a deep and universal truth, that writing is a (take your pick) business or art form or craft, I shake my head and attempt to move far away from the wise sage and the lecture that is about to begin.

What is meant by “writing” in any situation? Poetry? Literary novels? Short stories? Business plans? Copywriting? Textbooks? You cannot make a universal statement about writing without clarifying the form and genre.

Yes, writing can be a business. If you do receive or seek to receive payment for any written work, then of course your writing is a business. Anyone calling his or herself a professional writer is in the business of selling a particular skill set. Though we might not enter the profession for purely financial reasons (and who dreams of vast wealth from writing), once we begin seeking payment there is no denying writing is a business.

Professional writers need all the skills of any business person. We must be able to promote our ideas, secure contracts, interact with clients, anticipate trends, and collect payments. This is not news to any writer trying to survive on words alone. Granted, many professional writers are forced to earn supplemental income teaching, consulting, and serving lattes at coffee shops.

Writing is an art form when it seeks to express abstract concepts and emotions. As a creative writer, I certainly hope that my plays, essays, and stories have some literary and artistic merit. I am not afraid to admit that financial support is important if I want to continue pursuing creative writing. The starving artist dies, or at least leaves the pursuit of art for the pursuit of survival.

When created for small audiences, or no audience at all, writing creatively and artistically is divorced from the business. My poetry journals aren’t a business. I’m not seeking to publish the poems, nor do I use the works to promote my other writings. Writing sometimes is personal art. Yet, pursuing artistic writing for myself and a few other individuals provides practice that also improves the writing I compose professionally.

There is a craft that underlies most forms of writing. A technical manual can be well-crafted. Mastering the form and traditions of playwriting demonstrates the traits of a craft. The word craft refers to a learned and practiced set of skills used to generate a handmade product. Writing is learned and does require practice. The artisans are craftspeople who use their practiced skills to create individual works of expression.

Do not try to argue with the individual claiming writing is… whatever he or she wishes to claim. Writing can be a business. Writing can be an art form. And good writing is always carefully crafted.

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