Lots of people do some creative writing from time to time, and lots more are thinking about getting involved. Creative writing has some incredibly exciting aspects that draw legions of practitioners but it has some downsides too! 

The pros and cons of creative writing for poets, playwrights, screenwriters, and authors include creative fulfilment, financial reward, and making a celebrated contribution in your field. Downsides include financial uncertainty, and the difficulty of having work produced professionally.

Below we’ll examine different areas of creative writing, and the pros and cons of each, to help you decide whether you want to get involved in some creative projects, and which field is best for you!

Writing Can Be a Joy

What are the Pros and Cons of Writing a Play?

The pros and cons of playwrighting include being part of an incredible and excited community of theatre makers. Theatre brings you into close contact with fans, and playwrights also typically receive 10% of box office. The cons include the incredible difficulty of breaking in.

Writing plays can be incredibly exhilarating. Writing in any field can be lonely at first as you craft the world by yourself.

But in the theatre world, as a writer you are likely to have your work go through rounds of development, as it is performed by actors, and you receive feedback from directors and producers.

Being part of this community can be one of the most special and exhilarating experiences a writer can have.

Then there is the high of seeing your work performed and brought to life, as well as the powerful experience of coming into close contact with an audience that has enjoyed your work.

Receiving 10% of box office sales can also be a wonderful thing (and sometimes not so much).

If your play gets up on Broadway or the West End, then 10% of total box office take is likely to be a large sum.

People are shocked when they discover how much you can actually make as a playwright at the big end of town.

Folks tend to assume that playwrights are on the lowly rates stage actors usually receive – but it’s not true!

One of the biggest cons to being a playwright is how difficult is it to break in.

Being a playwright usually requires a very intimate knowledge of theatre, and access to huge amounts of resources to workshop and develop your talent.

Only the very few get this chance.

It’s also true that there are scarce jobs going for playwrights.

Not many new works are produced in the major theatre markets each year, and even fewer of those new works are written by first time writers – so the chance of breaking in during any particular year is low.

Don’t let that dissuade you though – talent and hard work will rise to the top – as long as you can make the right contacts, and be in the right place at the right time (just like with any job).

What are the Pros and Cons of Writing a Novel?

The pros and cons of writing a novel include that novelists can sell large numbers of copies, and receive big pay checks. Their works are also frequently adapted for film and TV. Cons include loneliness, and the fact that your first novel will likely be written without a book deal.

Genre writers in particular stand a reasonable chance of having their work traditionally published, finding an audience, and seeing a good return on investment.

Remember you can also self publish, and genre writers perform better in this market too.

As with any artform, the number of people who are making a full time living from writing novels is not large. But genre fiction gives you your best chance.

Remember that romance fiction accounts for roughly 40% of all fiction sales, and the next biggest genre of Thriller / Mystery only sells approximately half this number.

Literary fiction, while potentially more artistically satisfying, sells far fewer copies.

The thrill of speaking with readers who have enjoyed your work is intoxicating. The thought that you can make a genuine difference in peoples’ lives is a huge plus to writing a novel.

Cons for novelists include the fact that writing fiction can be a lonely and isolating experience. It helps if you have a partner or circle of friends (or writing group!) who you can regularly share your work with and get feedback as you write.

But generally, you are making thousands of decisions by yourself, and then revealing those decisions after potentially years of work to a market / agent / editor / publisher that may not be interested in your product.

While some artistic works are written on commission, your first novel is likely to be written without anyone’s knowledge or blessing.

It can be hard to carve out the time to work in this way – and this is a big con of trying to get started in the fiction world!

The Pros and Cons of Writing a Poem

One of the biggest pros to writing a poem is that it doesn’t take very long. It can also be extremely satisfying to get your feelings and ideas down on the page in a way that captures them concisely. Cons include that finding an audience can be tough, and getting paid even tougher.

Have you ever had an urge to write a poem, and just jotted one down that you are happy with?

Writing poetry that you actually like yourself is only a wild fantasy for many writers, but when it does happen it can be one of the most satisfying creative experiences around.

It doesn’t take long to write a short poem, and that means you don’t have to sink huge amounts of time and money into writing one.

This means that experimenting with poetry and finding out whether it’s the right form for you is so much easier than with other forms. Just give it a go!

If you want to write longer poems like epics (see video below), or poems with more complex rules like haikus or sonnets, then writing poetry can be a very satisfying intellectual challenge, as well as an emotional one.

In this way the pros of writing poems include the fact that it’s very challenging and satisfying to get right.

The cons of writing poems include that people are not always looking to spend money on poetry in the way they are happy to for a new release novel, or to see a film or play.

People take it for granted that they will get most of their poems for free online.

Poetry books tend not to sell very well, and even the best sellers don’t produce much money for publishers and authors.

Remember though that Shakespeare’s sonnets are one of the best selling pieces of literature of all time!

There are poets who publish their work online in places like Instagram, and sometimes these poets acquire huge audiences – and are able to sell large numbers of poems.

Rupi Kaur is a great example – check out her reading below.

The Pros and Cons of Writing a Screenplay

The pros and cons of writing a screenplay include the potential for a huge payday, and much fan adulation. Films are large and exciting undertakings, frequently requiring million dollar budgets. Cons include having to break in while writing spec scripts, and the high level of competition.

Screenwriting Can Realise Your Dreams

Writing screenplays can be thrilling.

There is huge energy and enthusiasm in the film community, for many reasons including the popularity of the form with audiences, the chance to have your imagination realised in the most complete way possible, and the fact that people in the industry actually get paid good wages.

Audiences rush out to see films all over the world, in a way that they just won’t to buy a new collection of poetry.

The film industry is hugely lucrative, with billions of dollar being made each year.

Films are made all over the world, and they also translate across cultures well, meaning that your film could become an international hit!

Seeing your imagination brought to life on the big screen can be one of the most satisfying elements of screenwriting.

If you write a play, your vision will be highly constrained by budget and what is physically possible in a theatre.

In film you can make anything happen! That’s thrilling.

Cons include the fact that there is huge competition to break in, and it’s so much about who you know.

Another way of saying this is that producers and directors usually work with writers for years on a single project, so it’s very important to them that they know and trust you.

This means you have to network, have a good reputation, and make friends with your potential co-workers!

The ideal situation for most screenwriters is to be commissioned to write a screenplay by a major production studio.

These are the people with access to big budget film making.

Unfortunately, you will probably have to write at least your first script on spec, which means ‘on speculation.’ Or speculating that someone will buy it after you have written it.

Unfortunately, very few scripts actually sell in this way, and yet it is one of the only ways to have your first film produced.

The Pros and Cons of Writing Nonfiction

The pros and cons of writing nonfiction include that it can be immensely intellectually satisfying as you explore real world stories and bring tales that you believe are important into the light. Cons include that it is potentially less creatively satisfying than fiction, and that breaking in is hard.

Nonfiction involves a huge amount of creativity, as arranging facts into a compelling narrative which hooks readers requires advanced story telling skills.

It can be hugely rewarding to land a story just right with a reader, in a way that highlights an issue you think is important.

Nonfiction writers can play an important role in society, bringing public attention to difficult issues, which can lead to reform or societal change for the better.

What better contribution to humanity can you make than by writing nonfiction that has such an impact?

Writing nonfiction can also be isolating, because you often have to research and write by yourself, which can take years.

Having a writing partner, a romantic partner who is interested in your work, or a good writing group can help to alleviate writers’ loneliness.

It can be hard to get started in nonfiction because you are unlikely to be commissioned to write a work of nonfiction until you have demonstrated that you can already do it, by doing it!

This means an investment of potentially years of unpaid labour hoping to recoup a reward at the end.

We hope this guide to the pros and cons of creative writing has been useful to you, and inspired you to set off confidently in the creative direction that is best for you!


Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.