“But I’m a Fiction Writer” … 3 Myths about Copywriting that Hold You Back from Writing for a Living

female writer working on computer

Viva La Resistance!

I was part of this resistance — the “I can’t be a creative AND a commercial writer” club.

All my very good reasons made sense. To me and my creative circle of friends who supported each and every rationalization I came up with after a later-in-life dream-come-true of graduating with an MFA in Creative Writing.

Even as we rationalized ourselves into minimum wage day jobs to support our creative writing habits. Adjunct professor positions that didn’t pay the rent. Service positions leaving us wrung out. Too exhausted to write at the end of the day.

“Resistance” is the perfect word. We love finding perfect words to describe an experience. Don’t we? 😃

The problem with inner resistance is that it’s often founded on immovable beliefs. Sometimes ones based more in myth than reality.

In true copywriting fashion, here’s a listicle debunking three myths about ‘commercial’ writing that may be closing your mind to getting well-paid to do what you love — writing, of course.

Without having to choose between supporting yourself and doing your art.

1) Myth 1: Copywriting Is All “Salesy” Manipulation ( … and that feels yucky!)

Some copy and content directly sells a product or service. Places a bow on the decision-making process.

Other copy educates, informs, and shares others’ experiences of those same products and services.

Ask yourself, are there products and services you can get behind? Share with friend and relatives? *Cough* … books and media you talk about and recommend?

That’s copy, too.

Think about the last story or creative nonfiction piece you wrote or enjoyed …

Did the author intentionally take the reader on an emotional journey? Depend on showing the experiences of characters to invite the reader into a similar experience? Occasionally, outright tell the reader, through dialogue, what they wanted them to feel or know?

That’s copy, too.

It’s only sales-y if you write it that way. I can (but won’t) name a few fiction authors whose work I’ve felt that way about, too.

2) Myth #2: Copywriting Is Somehow “Selling Out”

This myth probably should have been placed #1. I certainly hear it most often in literary circles. It’s what makes me hesitate sharing what I do as part of my freelance career in the company of those who hold this myth as a religion. I may even count myself a former member, if I’m honest.

Before I got over myself, that is. And this myth. I’m glad I didn’t make it #1. That gives it too much importance.

Truth is, there is nothing wrong with getting paid for your ability to tell stories. To engage a reader. Share your belief in someone’s business using your skill with the written word.

I mean, what writer of fiction — literary and/or genre — do you know who doesn’t chase the elusive bestseller? Or worry about boosting their online sales to get paid for doing their art?

What writer pursuing their passion doesn’t rail to anyone who will listen about the plight of the “starving artist?” Holding themselves up as an example of this virtue, as well.

The answer is … more than you’d think. They’re copywriters who make a great living, enjoy success in fiction careers — and have health insurance!

It is possible to do both, do them well, and get paid!

Ask authors like Pat Conroy and Kameron Hurley. They continue copywriting activities even as their fiction careers have reached successful status. Each credits copywriting with supporting their livelihoods and with developing their fiction writing.

Which leads us to our next myth …

3) Myth 3: Copywriting Will Ruin My Fiction Writing

As my friends (I wish!) Pat and Kameron have attested, this one is just pure bunk. If you’ve read Kameron’s books, she would, of course, have chosen a different perfect word here.

Copywriting teaches you the art of:

Critical skills many fiction writers I know would pay good money to have. Why not get paid to develop and fine-tune those skills, instead?

You learn to choose words (and space) as carefully as a poet. Craft client stories using metaphor and image. Break the habit of assuming the reader knows what’s going on in your head … and of always writing in complete sentences.

The blank page begins to lose its mythical power over you as a writer. You get to celebrate finishing something … every day!

The carrot starts to replace the stick. The critical voice in your head gets invited to the bench. A habit of confidence subs in, as tangible results become your cheerleaders.

This has been my experience, as well. As a writer, book coach, and instructor. I’ve seen nothing but improvement.

The ideas my clients, students, and I have had about writing develop into the practice of writing. Thanks, in large part, to my training in copywriting.

Time to Wrap It Up …

I could go on — as fiction writers can and do. But I have a word count to honor here.

I hope, Dear Reader (and Writer), you’ve started to notice versions of these three myths — and others — that may be running around your head. Keeping you stuck in a “starving artist” identity. Instead of the Successful Writer you’re working so hard to become.

One last note about resistance …

It has this tendency to keep us right where we are. Striving, instead of arriving, when it comes to dreams and goals.

What if you considered questioning even one of these myths? Dropping the resistance enough to give the experience a try?

You may just surprise yourself into making a living doing what you love. Becoming even more creative during your fiction writing time. Having health insurance. 😃

Join me, and so many other like-minded artists, by dipping your toes in with AWAI's 4 Days to $400 Writing Challenge. It's training created specifically for brand-new writers like us. You can read all about it here.

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Published: June 22, 2023

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