Q: How can I monetize my writing?
A: That is absolutely not the right question.
“I wrote something today,” my friend told me.
He asked if I would read it. It was good, and I said so. But I was not expecting the question that shot out of his mouth next: “So. How can I monetize this?”
Write to write, not to monetize
My friend had written something memoir-ish. A really compelling story that I hope he finishes someday. There are many reasons to write memoirs; the urge to make a buck is not one of them.
When you’re just starting out, write because you want to write. Because you need to tell the story. Because you have something the world needs to hear. Especially when you’re just starting out—when you’re beginning a practice of daily writing, for instance—thinking about who might publish it or who might buy it can paralyze you. Writers already have enough fears to battle on our way to the keyboard; we don’t need to add any more.
Write until the whole piece is finished. Then you can start to think about the audience most likely to buy and read it. Just as you can turn a lump of dough into either dinner rolls or a baguette, you can edit your writing to appeal to any audience you like. That’s the time to evaluate its commercial potential, or lack thereof. Not when you’re just starting out.
Just because a piece may not be commercial, may not be easy to monetize, does not mean you shouldn’t write it. In fact, “Who would buy this thing, anyway?” is a really effective roadblock to throw in front of yourself. In most cases—especially for a beginning writer—the answer may well be “no one.”
If your only goal is to monetize your writing, you stop there. But if your goal is to build your skills as a writer—to one day write something that is worth buying—then keep going. Write what you need to write, whether it’s good or bad, saleable or not. The more sentences you create, the greater the likelihood that some of them will be good.