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Writing for Therapy versus Writing for Publication—Part 2

Copyright 2000; 2012 by Patricia Anderson



Every hard-working professional writer was once a beginner having fun. The early career of the detective novelist Agatha Christie exemplifies the progress from amateur to professional author.

But if you've become hooked on the recreational or therapeutic aspects of writing, then you may be caught in a self-defeating cycle of writing more and getting published less—or not at all. And in the end you'll experience frustration not fun.

The "Only Writes"

Among the indicators of confusion between wanting to have fun and wanting to be published is an uncompromising approach to writing—a pattern of only writing under certain self-satisfying conditions of mood or circumstance. The "only writes" in the following list are warning signals that you've veered from the goal of publication and become mired in the therapeutic side of writing:

If two or more of the "only writes" are habitual with you, then you're stuck on the byway of unpublished—and unpublishable—writing. And if you're no longer enjoying it as you once did, then it's time to get moving again.

On the Road Again

The tips below will help take you to the subsequent stages of writing for publication. Odds are, they'll sound all too familiar. That's because they're like roadmaps—they don't change much, but they get you where you want to go:

If you find these tips boring or distasteful, then don't follow them. Writing strictly to have fun or to feel better has value all its own. Just be aware that while it may be the beginning of writing for publication, it is not the equivalent.

For true satisfaction, every writer in the end must make a fundamental choice between two distinct directions. Either you are writing exclusively for yourself—or writing for a market. As Agatha Christie observed:

If you like to write for yourself only . . . you can . . . write any way you wish; but then you will probably have to be content with the pleasure alone of having written. It's no good starting out by thinking one is a heaven-born genius—some people are, but very few. No, one is a tradesman--a tradesman in a good honest trade. You must learn the technical skills, and then, within that trade, you can apply your own creative ideas.

This, as every professional writer knows, is the difference between writing for therapy and writing for publication.

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