The Rebranding of Writing

I set out to write a blog post about the rebranding of writing, and I discovered that there was so much on my mind about it that I could go on for quite some time. So I decided to create a new tag “rebranding” and return to the subject every now and again. So this post sets up the whole topic of how writing has been rebranded for the masses.

Maybe the easiest way to begin to get at this idea of how thinking about writing has changed is to consider the ‘rules’ related to writing. Often times when a writer starts talking about “the rules” these days, they give out a big sigh and say things about researching the audience demographics and studying the character types of the genre before any doing anything else. The number one subtextual goal seems to be to avoid embarrassment by getting the marketing parts right, and then build upon that. This isn’t the way it used to be done—rules of writing and rules of marketing were looked at as two different beasts.

I learned about creative writing at a small college in the 1980s and screenwriting in graduate school after that. Later, I spent several years living in a small town wandering around canyons not keeping up with the latest trends. When I moved back east and reengaged, I felt a combination of puzzlement and amazement at how the literary community had rebranded all kinds of notions related to writing. I felt puzzled because the meaning of terms and ideas had been lost or changed and confused by young aspiring writers, and I felt amazed because the differentiation between creative writing and marketing had mostly disappeared.

The teacher in the first creative writing of fiction class that I took told us to forget all that we know about academic writing because creative writing comes from a different part of the brain. Sometimes called the muse or the collective unconscious or imagination land (and a host of other things), stories develop beneath a veil of consciousness and a writer journeys through that veil to find them. The story knows what it wants to be, and the creative mind is supposed to let go of all judgement to find the truth of the story.

Very often this approach is laughed at today. People start spouting off about all the rules of marketing and constructing a story, and they see the creative approach as childish—and of course they are right. Being creative is childlike, and if you have a ‘deal’ you better know something about demographics and marketing. But before you have a deal, that is the time to peek beneath the veil and learn how to be a creative writer—figure out the pathways that feel natural to you and then put your stuff out there to editors and critics to get an idea of what kind of writer you are. After that, you can take a more conscious approach and monetize your assets so to speak.

Anyway, I did say there’s a lot to this subject of rebranding, and I wandered off on a bit of a tangent. In future posts, I’ll try to spell out how things have changed or been lost, and why (maybe) the old way of looking at things is more honest and less confusing.


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