In the recent issue of a members-only magazine (thus no link here), a writer suggests that because the down economy has affected book publishing as it has affected the entire universe, editors are becoming more conservative and writers should write with an eye toward what the market wants (i.e., the tried and true). Now, she says, is not the time to write the book of your heart.
As a person who makes her living writing things for pay, I completely understand this perspective. I agree that you need to appeal to your audience (if you’re not writing for an audience, then this discussion is immaterial, and you may go back to your manuscript). I encourage all writers, of whatever stripe, to be familiar with the market, in all of its aspects. And there’s nothing wrong with the tried and true. I love the tried and true. Go, tried and true.
But there is never a bad time to write the book of your heart. Or, another way: this is always the time to write the book of your heart. If you’re lucky, every book you write will be the book of your heart. But that will only happen if you honor your instinct and passion, your creative impulse, and get in the habit of writing what only you can write.
I have seen too many writers turn themselves and their books into commodities by trying to simply fill market trends. You can certainly make a career this way. (I’ll be the first to admit I’ve written more than one book like this.) But do you really want to produce commodities? When commodities traders trade 40 barrels of crude or two tons of pork bellies, do they care which barrels of crude or which pork bellies are involved? They do not. The same is true of a book that anyone could have written.
Write the book of your heart. Send it to editors and agents, try to find it a home. Write the next book of your heart. Repeat as needed.
I make no guarantees this will lead to fame and fortune or even to publication. But I do know that anyone can write a commodity. Only you can write the book of your heart.