Should You Write from the Heart? Or the Head?

I’m in a fortunate position in that I don’t have to rely on my writing as a primary source of income. Because of that, there’s a tendency to want to write what I want when I want it.

But there was a day when I was just trying to get published. I focus on those days when I teach my Writing for Publication class. That class is unique because it requires students to actually get published, and I show them how. The number one thing I teach them is this: you get published by giving the editor what they want.

That’s writing from the head, and I learned that the hard way when I started getting magazine articles published. I realized that if I was willing to put my own desires on the back burner for a little while, do what the editor wanted, do it well and hand it in on time, I might get paid. In addition, I would develop a reputation as a reliable and dependable writer. That second is even more important than #1 if you’re writing as a career. When you have editors coming to you to write something, that’s a worthy place to be.

That’s writing from the head, and many writers who write for a living do this their whole career. Trouble is, it can turn a calling into simply a job. Some people look at their writing ability and just see a way to make a paycheck. Others see more.

It comes down to why you write. When was the last time you asked yourself that question?

Do you write because you want to get published?  Because you want to get paid? Because you want your name in lights?

Then most likely you will want to write from the head. If you’re good, you’ll find editors lining up, wanting your services. But there will be some days when you ask yourself if you’ve sold your soul.

On the other hand, do you write because you feel you have something to say? Because the muse is tickling your creativity? Because a story is banging around in your head and it seems like sometimes it will kill you if you don’t put it on paper?

Then you’re writing from the heart. You’re listening to your soul. You will find both joy and sadness in writing. Joy because you are finally able to express what you want–need–to say, and will find at least a few people willing to listen. Sadness because it will be a hard, hard road finding an audience.

In a perfect world, you will be able to do both. But most writers don’t live in a perfect world. I know I don’t.

It’s your choice.