Sunday, 12 July 2009

Why do you write?

Sir, nobody but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.
- Samuel Johnson
Instead of marveling with Johnson, how anything but profit should incite men to literary labor, I am rather surprised that mere emolument should induce them to labor so well.
- Thomas Green

I don't think many writers would agree with Johnson that money is the primary reason for writing. Indeed in this day and age it's a pretty darned stupid reason to write. Most writers - even published ones - never manage to make a living at it. Certainly more of us would agree with Green - it's love not money that fires our writing. Good writing needs passion behind it. It comes from the heart. Money might engender passion - but not for what you're writing.

I write because I enjoy it. Sure I'd love to be one of the rare ones who makes a living at it, but i'm not going to give up writing even if I'm never a success, because while I'd love to make a living writing, that's primarily because I'd like to make a living doing something I love. And I love writing.

However, in times of recession like this there is a sudden upsurge of submissions to agents and publishers. Why? Well partly it's because people who've always wanted to write find themselves redundant and use the unwanted free time while hunting for a new job to have a go, but also there are people who try because they see it as an easy way to get rich quick, and in recession they get desperate.

If you are one of these people please get a grip. Writing is fun, but it is not easy (nothing worthwhile is), and it will not get you rich quick (unless you're damned good, very lucky or both). Writing is art and they don't talk about starving artists for no reason. Those multi-millionaire authors are very much the exception. If you want to write find your passion first, and then write about.

Anyway, now that little rant is out of the way. Why do you write? What stokes your ideas and passions? Please comment.


MissKitty said...

I write a blog and I participate on twitter. But, I don't have much writing talent. So I read what others write. I agree that you must have passion for what you do. I have a passion for reading, you have a passion for writing. It's a kind of symbiotic relationship.

Anonymous said...

I don't write for money, but I see a lot of writers who write specifically for one market, and they DO sell their work. So they aren't failing at it, even if they aren't very original.

I've seen a lot of serial fiction like this, where different writers all work under the same name name with an established character. (In particular, I'd point to certain stories from the Star Trek series, or the Destroyer series.)

Many of the writers behind these series love the craft, but it shows in their books. Compare some of the uninspired ST:TNG crap from other writers with The Q Continuum, Peter David's best book in the Star Trek series. The people who write by a formula are easy to spot, just as David's love for the craft shows through in his work.

I think it's more often true that writers are artists first, and businesspeople second. But even in good economic times, there are people who look at Stephen King's writing and think, "I could do that for a living? Sign me up!"

And the sad truth is, with practice, they can sell work too. What they produce is uninspired, but that doesn't mean there isn't a market for them. There's a market for anyone persistent enough to look for it.