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Writing for money

Write what you love. Over and again I see this advice in the writing community, even when it means writing something for which there's no market. The idea is that you're supposed to be motivated solely by love or the creative spirit, rather than anything as vulgar as financial reward.

My personal response, as someone who writes to breathe, who honestly goes a bit nuts if I'm not working on a book or story collection, is that I absolutely am motivated by money.

Why shouldn't a writer create products for the purpose of income? 

We don't ask plumbers to fix sinks for the sheer love of it. We don't ask doctors to study for years, perfecting their skills, and then have no concerns about income. Writing is a craft. The most serious writers combine aptitude with study to become the very best they possibly can be. It takes years to get good at it. Even those "overnight successes" you read about, or the "naturally talented debuts," have years of story-writing behind them, often going all the way back to childhood. Most writers do this unrecognised work because they love it. That doesn't mean they shouldn't also be paid for their products.

It also doesn't mean they must never think about what sort of writing will bring them in money. I myself fell into that myth. For years, I thought penning romance would make me a sell-out, betraying the skills I'd striven for years to develop. Then I started actually reading the genre, and quickly discovered how much skill goes into being a best-selling romance novelist. The style of language may be looser, lighter, than literary fantasy, but that doesn't make it less worthwhile. In fact, since changing my style and putting in the work to develop it over this past year, I've come to see that it's a great deal harder than I ever imagined to write something that reads seamlessly for a broad audience.

Writing for money means being really good at your craft, because only well-written books bring in money.

Writing for money means wanting your job to be doing the thing you love most in the world.

Writing for money means you want your hard work to be worth something. Of course, it's worth it for its own sake, but in the real world you want your hard work to buy you sushi.

Writing for money means taking yourself and your craft seriously and getting other people - agents, publishers, readers - to do the same. This in particular has always been a prime motivator for me. Whenever I feel low, I look at how many people have bought my books - and come back to buy more - and it reminds me that my writing has value.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with writing for the sheer love of it. But those who want to write for money ... or who choose what they write for the sake of money ... are just as much soulful artists, in love with their craft, as anyone else.


  1. Yes, I agree. We artist often forget that our labour and craft is worth to be financial rewarded too. We don't see it as a job, because of this inner urge to create, I guess. But I found out that in the process it's very important to stay true to your love for your craft, and use that love as most important motivation to write and not ONLY write for the sake of money. That will only provoke burn outs in the end, just like when doctors or plumbers or nurses only work for money, forgetting why they started their studies in the first place. I have a good friend who thinks art just needs technique, and a bit of luck, to earn money with it. He forgets the love part. And he wonders why he has no success.


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