Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Would You Write for Nothing?

"The superior man seeks what is right; the inferior one, what is profitable." ~Confucius

Face it. Writers don't make squat on the average. I don't know the ratio of writers who make a six figure income versus those who can't break $10K, but my guess is on the line of one in ten thousand - - and that's probably way conservative. That's one hundredth of one percent.

And those odds continue to worsen due to self-publishing. The market is flooded now with reading material. When the average person doesn't read more than a couple books in a year, who the heck is reading these books?

Yet we continue watching the star on the horizon, aiming to one day reach it and hold our bestselling book in our hands. It's like playing the Powerball twice a week, with the Power Play, in hopes that one day you can quit work and pay off all the bills. The more we play, the better our chances.

But would you write if you knew you'd never make a living at writing? Most of you would say yes. Would you write if you couldn't make a dime? Hmmm...I wonder.

Writers write differently when they choose to write for money. They only have one eye on the writing. The other is on the bank. Loyalties are split. They don't write for the love of crafting the perfect story. Well, they might start off writing that way, but these are the people who eventually walk away because they can't make dollars for the time invested.

"The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard." ~Gaylord Nelson

When you write as if the story was your legacy, you write differently. It's like handing in your final term paper - the one that makes the difference in whether you graduate . . . to the teacher who'd flunk you for one misplaced comma, dangling participle or split infinitive.

You might be writing for free. Truth is . . . if you knew up front that you were, would you still write?

This sounds like a corny post, one that will result in most people replying with a resounding "yes, I'd write because it's like breathing." To all those who would respond in a strong affirmative, let me ask you this -- do you write every day? Like breathing?


BECKY said...

Wonderful post, Hope! And, yes, I have written for nothing, am still pretty much writing for nothing, etc. I do have my eyes on that horizon, too. But, some days the only writing I do is on my blog, or notes I jot down about something I intend to put in my book. I'm pretty sure those don't really count as "writing"...but I did read somewhere once, that if you "think" about writing, and "think" about things you are "going to write", then you wrote that day! Hey..I'll go for that!

Susan said...

Dear Hope...Yes, I write every day of my life and wouldn't have it any other way.

When I worked as a newspaper reporter, I was paid for my efforts.

These days, it's hard to support one's self through writing, but I write anyway.

My blog, also, is a source of sheer joy. Since I started it last October, after discovering blogland, I have missed only one post. It is my daily source of love.

Would I love to make money with my writing and photography? Of course I would. Would I stop writing and stop taking pictures if I don't get paid for them? NOT ON YOUR LIFE.

So, there you have my answer to your question. Susan

Carrie said...

It would be nice to make money doing what I love which is writing; but, that is not why I write. I write because I must. If I don't, I get so pent up and frustrated that I become such a miserable soul to be around with. When I finally sit down to write, even if it's just a few sentences, I feel released. Rejuvenated. I write to keep my focus in life. I write to keep the child within me alive. I could go on. Writing is essential in my life; but, on the other side, I would love to see one of my books published. So, I'm a dreamer as well. Nothing wrong with that. :)

Karen Lange said...

I would still write. I'd have to get another part time job, but I would still be typing (or scribbling) away!

Kathleen Ewing said...

As a matter of fact, I have quit freelancing so I can spend my time writing what I want to write. No markets. No deadlines. Just me and my novel, every day. And with publishing being what it is these days, I don't really expect to publish. I'm just telling a story that needs to be told.

graywave said...

Yes, I would. In fact, I did, for about ten years. I used to make quite a lot of money from writing (non-fiction) but always wanted to write fiction. So I focused on that, tried to sell it and had absolutely no success after years of trying. So I gave up trying to sell it and just wrote for pleasure - for a whole decade. Then I had another go at selling (about two years ago) and immediately sold a bunch of short stories and my first novel! Perhaps I needed that ten year break to get comfortable within my own fiction-writing skin.

And yes, I did it every day - except the days something stopped me. (Which I suppose is a kind of literary apnoea - to push the "like breathing" simile.)

Kristi Holl said...

Hope, I love your post. This question is on the minds of so many writers these days. (Mine as well.) The years I wrote for myself and didn't "bank" on the money to live on were more fun--and the writing was more personal and true. I am working now to get back to that. 8-)

Anthony J. Langford said...

Very good point Hope. If we get published, most of us won't make any money from it anyway. I think we would only like to make money from it so that we can give more time to it, and not for any other reason.

Cheers graywave. That was inspiring. I've written seven novels in seven years and I think it's time for my break. Rejections can be tiring and as I'm about to bring my first child into the world, it's time to stop for a while.
With the worry of publishing, that is. I won't stop writing. I can't.