Wednesday, Apr 22, 2009

The Purist / Non-Purist Controversy

Periodically, the age-old discussion arises among writers regarding whether one should write only what he wants to write or whether one should write what a magazine, book publisher, or client needs. On the one hand, writing purists will say that to write anything other than what one wants to write is to compromise. On the other hand, writing non-purists will say that the job of the writer is to meet a client’s need, regardless of the writer’s desire to write the piece. 

I think the truth lies somewhere in between. While we all would love to write only what we want to write, if we plan to make a living from our writing we will often be called upon to write what our client needs. For example, I’ve written things from press releases, to résumés, to bank shareholder letters in order to earn a living from my writing. While I don’t dislike doing this type of writing and, in fact, often find it quite interesting, I much prefer writing fiction and poetry. But fiction and poetry do not yet bring in enough income for me to earn a living from that type of writing alone. 

What are your thoughts on this seemingly never-ending writing controversy? Are you a writing purist or non-purist?




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5 thoughts on “The Purist / Non-Purist Controversy

  1. I’m a purist at hear MaryAnn with a mild non-purist streak. I began my writing career writing about interior design. This was by choice because I loved and worked in that field.

    When I re-discovered my heart’s passion and found my true voice,I slipped into the lifestyle/life skills/inspirational/motivational/self-improvement niche.

    So far, I have been blessed with the privilege and freedom to write on topics I am passionate about.

    The experiences in my writing career might have spoiled me but although it might be difficult to have to write something else, I believe my non-purist streak will rise to the occasion.

    Like you, I believe that compromise and balance can find a happy place between the two. The key is to be open, willing and flexible.

    April 22, 2009 at 8:11 AM

  2. I’d love to be a writing non-purist, i.e., have someone pay me to write! I’ve looked for writing gigs without notable success (aside from one years ago for a friend who wanted a “romance” resume, which, ultimately, led him to his wife, so I guess I didn’t do too badly, since they’re happy together).

    In the meantime, I’m trying to do a blend: writing to the inspirational romance “formula” while staying true to the characters and the setting. I’ve had one rejection from this so far. I’ll keep you posted on the rest.

    Whenever I consider the pros and cons of writing for profit, I remember a couple of verses: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” And “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord.” (My transliteration.) Also, “The workman is worthy of his hire.” (I like to think of that as something like this: “The work you do is valuable, and so are you.”)

    I hope this helps anyone who has been waffling between the desire to write for pure joy (which we should still do!) and writing what someone needs, for pay. We should do both, for pay to feed ourselves and to support the writing that we love to write!

    April 22, 2009 at 11:35 AM

  3. I’ll write on assignment as long as I’ve prayed and have a peace in my heart. I won’t support or write for any periodical that makes me compromise my convictions.

    At the moment, my opportunities to do non-purist writing are limited. When something does come up, I use it as an opportunity to improve my skills.

    Great post!

    Susan 🙂

    April 22, 2009 at 6:37 PM

  4. I’m inbetween, but I’m also a little off the writing track here. I write what I love to write … but supplement myself with editing work.

    April 24, 2009 at 8:53 AM