What if you treated your writing like a business?

I seem to have a business mindset at the forefront right now (see my post from last week about criteria for bestowing grants), which isn’t surprising when you consider that we’re going through a marketing phase in my screenwriting master class at ScreenwritingU right now.

Sonya commented on last week’s post saying, “[this] is very close to the same list of things investors want to see when considering an investment in a business; a book and author are no different for a grantor (or publisher, for that matter)! They are an investment, and a risk, to manage.”

It fits right in with this idea that’s been swirling around in my brain: What if we treated writing like a business?

When I was in my early 20’s applying for jobs, my father taught me to look at myself as a asset that I was bringing to the job interview. As if I was the CEO of my own small company, and it was up to me to make smart business decisions based on my skills, talents, and abilities, and to communicate about them objectively to my prospective employers. He also taught me to consider whether or not that employer was a good fit for me, not just whether or not I was a good fit for them. 

In other words, it had to be a good match for everyone.

It occurred to me that it might be interesting to think about our writing endeavors as their own kind of enterprise. After all, at the end of the day, many of really are writer-entrepreneurs, even those of us that get traditional publishing deals. 

I’m sure there are artists out there right now rolling their eyes, talking about art for art’s sake and all that.

But I don’t really mean this in a grasping, heavy-handed business-y / gross marketing kind of way. (Though I do believe in grounded, sustainable marketing as a valuable thing — I do not subscribe to the belief that all marketing is evil and wrong.)

What I mean is this:

  • What if we look at every writing project we take on as an investment, with pros and cons and viability to consider ALONG WITH our level of passion and artistic interest and commitment in it?
  • What if we make real, practical choices about developing our skills in order to do our best work, by evaluating our writing skills not with a fixed mindset, but with a growth mindset, and pursue training and mentoring accordingly?
  • What if we treat our writing like a professional commitment and show up every day to do the work?
  • What if we set specific goals for our writing projects and careers and check in on them monthly, quarterly, and yearly to see how we were doing?
  • What if we think about a project from start to finish, including how we will take it to market?
  • What if we wrote because we said we would, and didn’t wait until we “felt like it”?

Again, I don’t say any of this to suggest “selling out” or becoming overly commercial.

To me it’s more about the mindset of being a professional and taking our work seriously.


And, as I write this, I also know that I love exploring the side of writing that puts the focus on the joy and passion of it.

I believe there is a lovely hybrid of business and pleasure that feels like a sweet spot for each one of us. That’s what I mean when I use the word “calling“. More about that to come in a future post.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on the blog.



Every writing project is an investment

Every project I work on – especially when it’s a long-form piece – has begun to feel like an investment: In myself, in my writing, in my future.

Each one starts out seeming so simple. Just an idea. But it builds over time into a complex story. With questions and puzzles and logic challenges and logic flaws and doubts. All of which have to be solved. 

And it takes time to crack those puzzles.

Even though I’ve been able to move from concept to outline to draft much more quickly now than I have in the past, it’s more than just a matter of pace and production. It’s also about depth and attention — preoccupation even — for a period of my life. It’s about making a commitment to a story that occupies my time, my thoughts, my subconscious, my dreams. It occupies ME. 

When I hear the stories of how many drafts it took to write The Sixth Sense and how many before he “got” the big idea, I appreciate even more what an investment a story is. Learning to tell it well. To refine it, hone it, pare away the unnecessary bits. All the rewriting. It’s no small thing.

And yet we dive into these stories with such hope and abandon. “This one will be different,” we tell ourselves. “It’ll practically write itself! I’ll be done before I know it.”

The grass is always greener

Just tonight I happened upon a journal entry from last year, where I was lamenting about how ready I was to write something new as I was slogging through a major rewrite. And since then, I have. And now I’m feeling about the new project the way I was feeling about the thing I was rewriting at the time. Or possibly worse. :)

Isn’t that funny, how the grass is always greener on the next project?

I think that must be part of the drive behind “bright shiny object syndrome” and the resultant project hopping we writers can get into. Those other projects look so much more appealing than our current moldy one, all banged up and warty and flawed.

No wonder we leave trails of unfinished projects behind us like breadcrumbs leading to a trove of forgotten dreams.

I think there may also be a hesitation to fully commit to a second or third or next project because we know what a major big deal it is having been through earlier projects. I can see why “second novel syndrome” may be more than an issue of simply exceeding the quality of one’s prior work! It’s also about psyching ourselves up for the next step in our writer’s journey.

Difficult but worth doing

Because really, it’s why we’re here, right? To write? 

So whether we’re starting our first project or our tenth, or rewriting yet another draft, it’s about facing the work. Finding the courage to do it. Stewing in the crummy, awkward, and sh*tty rough draft writing we’ve created or wrestling with the new story choices and puzzles, while we twist uncomfortably, grasping at straws, wondering how on earth to solve or fix it. It’s painful!! Who would want to subject herself to that?

No wonder we jump to other things.

But when I think of each project as an investment, it changes the picture for me.

It becomes worth it to put in the time.

It changes from the wretched torture of rewriting a terrible rough draft or struggling to pull the pieces together to something difficult but worth doing.

What about you?