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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Author: C. Scott Wyatt

Writer.