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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Writing: Business or Art
My Struggle to Decide
By Tina L. Miller


When I first started writing some 20-odd years ago, it was to express my  innermost feelings and thoughts as a release and an artform. Later, as an  adult, my writing transitioned to creating fiction for pleasure--both mine and my readers' - and then to sharing a message. I had found my mission in life: To motivate and inspire others through my writing and speaking.

I dreamed of writing full-time, leaving my job in corporate America to  fulfill my calling. Then in 1999, my position with a large insurance company  was eliminated due to corporate downsizing. After the shock wore off, I was  thrilled. Here was my opportunity! I could freelance full-time. I could  write for a living. Little did I know that my writing, and how I thought about my writing, was about to undergo another profound change.

I discovered the greatest market for my work as a freelance writer was in  non-fiction. Motivating and inspiring other people often comes through the  creative use of nonfiction - sharing real, true, and personal experiences from my life and the lives of others - so this didn't phase me. I knew that  to make a living, however, I would have to concentrate a good portion of my  time writing for businesses. It would be difficult to make a living writing only motivational magazine articles and books as a relatively new professional writer without many publishing credits to my name.

I set some standards for myself - what I would and wouldn't write about and the kinds of publications and companies I would and wouldn't do business with. I refused to write under a pen name, asserting that if I wasn't proud enough of what I had written to put my own name next to it, I simply wouldn't write it at all. I recognized that my writing was an extension of who I am and I wouldn't compromise that for anyone.

Immediately, my ethical and moral standards eliminated many prospective publishers and businesses. But in doing this, I also discovered it set me apart and opened up opportunities with the kinds of people and businesses I truly respected and enjoyed working with. It created the foundation for some exceptional long-term working relationships.

With a background in business and a way with words, I quickly landed several corporate clients and some regular work writing for a newspaper. I supplemented my income writing advertising copy, copy for Web sites, and articles for e-zines. Each time I saw my byline in print or online, I was totally elated. Seeing my name "in lights" brought the kind of thrill only another writer can relate to. It went beyond words.

Then several of my clients began to ask me to ghostwrite articles for them. My initial reaction was to balk. No byline? Giving credit for my work to someone else? At least half of the pleasure I got out of writing was seeing my name in print with my work. I didn't know if I could do it. Maybe it was ego. Maybe it was a fear of going unrecognized in the publishing world. Perhaps it was the fear of giving up the rights to my work. Did I think I couldn't write something else? Did I think my writing wouldn't steadily improve and I couldn't write something better in the future? I started to get irrational. What if this was the best I could do and then my writing just dried up?

Luckily a coach, mentor, and friend helped me to realize that with time and experience my writing skills would only continue to improve and become more valuable. He also pointed out that if I didn't accept the ghostwriting proposals, I could be giving up one of the most lucrative opportunities of my writing career. Was I running a real business or not? And if so, why would I pass up a chance like this? So began the battle in my mind: Was my writing a business or an art? The answer came slowly, reluctantly even. Both, I whispered. It is both. If I want to make a living writing so that I can pursue the art of writing, I must also treat it as a real, legitimate business and respond accordingly. I would have to swallow my ego or fear or whatever it was and get on with it.

I reasoned that I was already doing a good deal of work without a byline. I didn't receive published "credit" for the advertising copy or the tutorials I wrote. I hadn't received one in corporate America for all the writing I did for other people on the job. While I may receive some mention for some of the corporate Web site content I create, it is still essentially a work-for-hire situation. The copyright resides with my clients. How was this so different?

So I began to ghostwrite articles for several of my clients. I realized that I could still put clips of the work in my portfolio and my clients were very willing and happy to confirm that I had ghostwritten articles for them when potential clients contacted them for referrals. In fact, my clients were extremely loyal and supportive and they sent even more work my way. What I wrote made them look good. When they were successful, I was successful. I started to feel a bit better about the whole thing, byline or no byline. My business was growing quickly and successfully and I was making a living doing what I loved best. What more could I ask for?

Does agreeing to ghostwrite mean I've given up writing for a byline? No way! I still write my own work - the motivational and inspirational work that comes from my heart - and in fact, I may even be motivated to write more of it now because I still have a psychological need to see my byline next to at least some of my work on a regular basis.

But I'm also a full-time freelance writer, and this is my business. So I include ghostwriting in the services I offer because it keeps the mortgage paid. I decided I don't have to choose one over the other after all. For me, writing can be both a business and an art.


Tina L. Miller is a freelance writer, the author of When a Woman Prays
http://www.tinalmiller.com/MyBook.html (Obadiah Press, ISBN 0-9713266-1-4, $15.95), and the Editor in Chief of Obadiah Magazine. She lives in Merrill, Wisconsin, with her husband and two children. You can reach her at tina@tinalmiller.com or visit her Web sites at http://www.tinalmiller.com and http://www.obadiahpress.com


 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

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