Another Totally Obvious Thing I Learned

I was in New York over the weekend for Comic Con. The stereotypes are true; there really were tons of geeks in fantastic outfits.

This is a picture of my panel's standing room only crowd.

It's clear people love their zombies.

But that's not what I learned. I already knew zombies are the future. No, I learned something so basic I once again feel like a fool.

This is it: Writing is a business.

This came home to me when I had lunch with Janet Reid and her fabulous client, Sean Ferrell, and my editor at Eos. The talk was about deals and contracts and what's selling, what genres are hot and if they might be cooling. And then the next night at the panel I met a bunch of other writers and some very nice people from Wiley and again the talk was business, but this time over dinner and I had a mojito too.

I suppose I always knew it, somewhere in my reptilian brain, but I didn't really know it. This weekend the fact hit me like that moment you realize you're going to die, really going to cease to exist, and it makes your stomach ache, because the realization is so visceral and pure and unavoidable. Sometimes it keeps you up at night. The fear of not-existing, I mean. The terror of your own impending non-consciousness.

Of course, the realization that writing is a business wasn't nearly as shocking as the existential knowledge of death. But it was important nonetheless. I live far away from the publishing industry in Toad Suck, Arkansas, where the pace is slower and the okra is plentiful. Heck, I even live in a dry county! And as for writing, I toil away upstairs in my nook, alone, thinking only about the next word, not the business side of things. I have friends who are writers, but we mostly talk about the process of writing, or go into long (and sometimes boring but never when I do it!) discussions of our works in progress. Not marketing. Not money. Not business.

But there are people thinking about the business end. Smart people. Charming people who love books and want the world to have more of them. Oddly enough, I found this inspirational. Comforting. Liberating even. Because if writing's a business, then they need products to sell. That's where writers come in, even ones who live in central Arkansas. Or the Upper Peninsula. Or Baltimore. Or wherever.

The fact that writing is a business is a good thing. Without the commerce side, writing would be ephemeral, fleeting, maybe even pointless. And that would make my stomach hurt.
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4 Response to Another Totally Obvious Thing I Learned

October 11, 2010 at 7:48 PM

I'm so jealous. Everyone who went is posting pictures. I love a good comic con, but only make it to the Texas ones.

As for writing being a business, there's no denying it. Sometimes I hate that it is, that it isn't possible to just send in a manuscript and say to a publisher, "Here ya go. Print 'er up!" and they say, "Lawsy, thanks a bunch!" and we skip around on rainbows. Or something. I write to entertain myself and others, and it wasn't until I tried to get published that I realize how difficult a business it is.

October 12, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Yeah, you pretty much just became the coolest person I know.

October 13, 2010 at 6:22 AM

Jen--does that mean I'll suddenly be able to work the wifi at school? : )

October 15, 2010 at 3:34 PM

I don't even think deities can pull that one off

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