Because--and here's the fitness metaphor!--there's a similar one in fitness.
|This is powerlifter Caitlyn Trout. She's a world record holder in the 123 and 132 lb weight classes. She taught me how to deadlift a few months ago.|
In fitness, there are bodybuilders and powerlifters. One trains for aesthetics. One trains for strength. I emphasize "trains for" because they're both working hard toward a goal.
|This is Leanna Carr, a figure pro competitor. She helped me PR my squat.|
(Sidenote: girls, if you pick up a weight, you're not gonna accidentally Hulk. This takes YEARS of focused diet & training. Also sidenote: bodybuilders only look like this for competitions. Their oompa-loompa skin is not a daily thing, and out of season, they aren't quite so cut.)
In the same manner, a literary writer and a commercial writer have different goals. The literary writer doesn't sit down to create a heart-pounding page-turner. The commercial writer doesn't sit down to explore the depths of the human condition.
In a lot of cases, bodybuilders end up strong and powerlifters end up cut (particularly in the lower weight classes). There is a lot of crossover. Both Leanna and Caitlyn above dabble in the opposite sport. In fiction, most books aren't 100% literary or 100% commercial.
Yet there's still a lot of cattiness between powerlifters and bodybuilders. I typed "powerlifters" into Google, and "powerlifters vs bodybuilders" was the second result.
That's because people have trouble understanding that other people can have different goals, no matter the medium. Here are some of the key differences between literary and commercial writers:
1. More carefully craft the prose itself--its flow and overall sound
2. Include lots of symbolism; what's actually happening isn't necessarily the #1 important take away
3. Make the reader think
1. Prioritize the plot with strong goals, motivations, and conflicts--including generally high stakes
2. Want the reader to keep turning pages, as opposed to setting the book down to think
3. Use accessible themes to appeal to a broad audience
But I think we can all agree that these similarities are far more important:
Both literary and commercial writers:
1. Have goals.
2. Write a story with an eye to achieving those goals.
3. Work hard to revise that story to eliminate weaknesses.
4. Play up the strongest part of their manuscripts.
5. Appeal to the audience who will appreciate their manuscripts the most.
Both sides are putting in the work. The "work" just happens to mean something different. So stop turning up your nose at commercial writing or groaning with boredom at literary writing. They're both valuable and both take work.