Commercial vs Literary: Must I really sell out?

I’d love to discuss the (oh so obvious) Oscar nominees tonight, but truthfully, there’s nothing more to say until I’ve at LEAST seen King’s Speech.

Instead, I’ll air an inner struggle that has caused me more angst in the last year than the argument of who has better donuts: Krispy Kreme or Tim Horton’s (If you haven’t heard of one or the other, get ye to the opposite side of the Mason Dixon line).

I’ve come into a great deal of ambivalence here in these post-grad days trying to figure out what it is I really, truly, deeply want out of life—more specifically,

what do I want out of a writing career?

For the life of me I cannot make it all fit. My plans, my ideas—who am I kidding? My ideals—seem to be fitless in between the polar opposites of the writing world: literary writing and commercial writing.

I like drama. A lot. But I cannot seem to marry the concepts of writing for dramatic entertainment with what academia has taught me to perceive as important writing. Here’s what I mean:

I was grudgingly reading about the difference between drama and melodrama in this super-nifty-second-favorite-textbook-in-the-world last night as the author placed good theatre on the ++dramatic++ side and generally all television on the – – melodramatic – – side. I felt guilty as a writer for owning a collection of Gilmore Girls DVDs and watching Grey’s Anatomy ceremoniously.

So here’s the question: Can a writer be both literary and commercial?

Must she sell her soul and fidelity to one or the other in order to be a successful writer? To be sure, melodrama pays better. Western civilization needs her ration of emotional outbursts and shattered lives each night to sustain her sense of reality.

The more pragmatic writer says the pig doesn’t need another coat of lipstick, but the dreamer in me still wants the best of both worlds—the literary cake with commercial icing, so to speak.

NOTE: The questions in this post are not rhetorical. It would absolutely make my day to hear what you think. Writer, reader…random observer, I don’t care!… Share! Aren’t I the clever poet? 😉


2 thoughts on “Commercial vs Literary: Must I really sell out?

  1. I’m just throwing this out there…
    I think it might just be hard for a literary writer to go commercial because commercial writing takes something away that made them write in the first place.
    Maybe it’s writing about the feeling you get when you go to Virginia beach…the smell, the feeling of the air, the noises, etc.
    You could write several pages about the noises alone, right? Sure you might be able to do that in a melodrama, but it would be chopped up maybe even cheapened…

    Commercial writers may do the same, but it seems contained.
    Literary writers seem uncut, raw, and uncensored.

    Maybe you have to sell out…but I’m going to say go for it. Have the best of both world’s. Maybe you can create a melodrama people know is different. And they will say, “holy crap, this writer married the two opposites together.”

    1. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement, friend. I want to keep working and honing my skills in both types of writing so that maybe one day, I’ll be able to write commercial drama literarily (and yes, it’s a word!) and literary works with commercial appeal!

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