"Every magazine has its own policy and makes a definite appeal to a certain clientele. Study these and take them into consideration when offering your wares for any market."
Sounds like sound advice for the free-lance writer, no? You’ve probably read something similar recently. But that advice was written in 1921 by Emma Gary Wallace in a little rag called Successful Writing. All these years later, Successful Writing has morphed into the venerable Writer’s Digest, but isn’t it amazing how consistent the advice has been through the years? Technology has changed, but the route to success remains the same–study your market and slant your offerings accordingly.
An AP article on the magazine looks at the advice it has given through the decades and how it has changed with social and world events. During World War II, for instance, writers were told that if a man wasn’t in uniform, they needed to explain why. However, by the end of 1945, writers were advised to get men back into civilian attire.
It’s an interesting article that pretty much proves the point that the more things change the more they stay the same. The takeaway quote is from Lawrence Block, who is a prolific mystery writer and former columnist for Writer’s Digest: "It’s like asking if we’re any closer to the great mystery of how one paints a portrait or composes a symphony?…..Most of the arts are extremely difficult, and there are always more people that want to do it than can do it."
I don’t entirely agree with him on that last point. Every single person on this planet is creative in one way or another, and all of us have the ability to manifest that creativity through the arts. Whether we are all "talented" enough to have success in the arts is another matter, but it shouldn’t really matter. Yes, we all want to be published and get recognition for our work, but the writers who will ultimately have the most success are those who do it because writing is its own reward.