When Do You Think About "Where?"

The past few days have included several writer-full conversations touching on "where are you going to publish this?"

I've written a little recently (here, here, and here) (okay, maybe more than "a little"?) about matching written pieces to the needs and interests of particular publications.

Sharing finished pieces is an understandable need/desire/obsession/step in the process. Most of us tell stories FOR READERS--first for ourselves as readers, and then for other people.

One recent conversation held a new slant. A writer who's still in the early stages of a project has received suggestions from a person whose interest in the project is driven by business and publication. That's great--that's what the person providing input is supposed to do, it's her role. And there's nothing wrong with the suggestions, either--except that they may not work well with the story the writer WANTS to tell.

Which got me thinking about writing pieces for a publication (or publications) vs. writing pieces that find homes in publications. The first is what I did as work. It was a job. It was also really fun and personally rewarding (to say nothing of financially rewarding--it was a JOB).

But it wasn't driven from the same deep desire that I write from today. Which is also work, but a different kind of work.

I'm fortunate. For one thing, I'm older and so grateful to have experienced that thrill of contributing to magazines, writing and editing curricula, writing newsletters, summarizing and narrating research process and findings, and all the accompanying bits. The interviews with semi-famous people, passionate people, fascinating people. The research. The sense of being in a community and knowing little stories that others don't because you've spent time talking with this person about that thing they're doing over there. It was great.

I'm also fortunate in that I don't do that now. I still love working with experts in the limited ways I do (I edit a lot of proposals for motivated scientists and engineers doing really interesting research projects). But I don't HAVE to with the same urgency I had before, either for professional achievement or for financial reasons.

So in my writing, I CAN be driven by other questions: "What is the story I WANT to tell?" "What is the best way to tell it?" "Does this finished piece satisfy my urge to convey what I want it to?"

The question, "Where am I going to publish this?" comes later. Often, much later--years. Often, to be honest, the question sounds more like "Whyyyyyyyyy won't somebody just PUBLISH this??"

My situation may change. Though I am not (yet) a writer with an agent or a multi-book contract, if I were, I'd have to consider motivations other than just "me me me" and what I WANT to do. I would be in a business partnership, and I'd need to hono(u)r that commitment and their investment in my work.

Meanwhile, I have a stack of work that I've finished or that has come back. So: back to thinking about "Where?"