Writing: For Money or for Fun? Why Not Both?

If you fall into the crazy category of people who are trying to write…well, pretty much ANYTHING, then you’re going to run into lots of comments about why you should be writing.  About your personal motivation.  And hypocritical people are gonna get kind of judgey about it.

Namely, people are going to shove the idea down your throat that you should be writing purely for the fun of it, or you’re doing it for the Wrong Reasons.  (Imagine my fingers doing the air-quote thing.)

This is especially true if you’re rather tied into the writing pulse, as I try my best to be.  They (writers, agents, authors, publishers) talk about how writing is a ‘labor of love,’ so really you should enjoy doing it.  Do it because you want to do it, not because you feel obligated.  Which I mean, I definitely agree with!  But it’s the way that it’s said that occasionally makes me stop and think, because what many of them are actually saying is that you shouldn’t be trying to write if any of your motivation is to make money.

And I don’t particularly agree with that.

I mean, what’s so wrong with hoping your craft will make you a couple of bucks?  In this day and age, any talent you have–even remotely–should be put to work to help you make it.  That’s the idea behind Etsy, right?  That even little old ladies or poor college students with knitting needles can make a dollar with their gloves and afghans.  These are tough times, and I know I personally don’t have two pennies to rub together.  So what?  So what if at least part of my motivation for writing IS the hope that some day it might mean I don’t have to work in retail?  Is that really so terrible, so dirty of a thought to have?

Of course, I get what they’re trying to say.  Don’t go into the writing business just aiming to make gobs of cash.  Not only will you probably end up with a sub-par product–I mean, if you have no talent or drive to write, what can you possibly end up with?–but you’ll also garner a lot of failure and criticism and rejection unnecessarily.  Because chances are really good that probably you’ll never make the kind of cash from your writing that will let you quit your job, let alone buy a yacht, or whatever other people dream about.  

But you should still try.  If writing is what you like to do, then for all means, put that to use!  Submit to journals FOR MONEY, try to get published FOR THE MONEY, work on that self-pub so you can, you guessed it, GET SOME MONEY.  And stop feeling guilty about it!  The arts have to be the only backwards career choice you can possibly enter where people think it’s okay–no, that it’s pretty much a given–that you’ll do a lot of work for free.  AND NEVER EXPECT TO GET PAID.  They figure you’re ‘getting yourself out there,’ that you’re ‘getting exposure.’ 

Which is all fine and dandy… Except that ‘exposure’ doesn’t pay the bills.  Nobody expects people in other jobs to do things for free and enjoy the experience, or because they ‘like to.’  (This includes unpaid internships which, if you haven’t gotten the memo, are dumb and you should stop feeding into them. Never take an unpaid internship.  You should at least be getting college credit!)

And let’s be real here for a second.  JK Rowling, our beloved Harry Potter author, was dirt poor when she started writing.  Was she doing it as an escape, as something to have fun with?  Yeah, that was probably part of it.  But do you think she said no when the money started pouring in?  HECK NO.  Part of her was always hoping, even quietly, maybe secretly, that her book about kid wizards was going to make her a buck.  And guess what?  It did.

So remember that the next time you’re making yourself sit down to write, wondering what on earth you’ve gotten yourself into, and think, ‘Oh right.  Maybe one day this book will buy me a Mazda.’  Enjoy the journey.  Enjoy writing the book.  Enjoy those intangible aspects, even knowing your draft will probably never see the light of day.

But never feel guilty that money MIGHT enter into your thoughts.  Doing stuff for free would be great in a perfect world where gas didn’t cost like $4.

I don’t live in that world, however, so excuse me while I keep trying to become a billionaire.


6 thoughts on “Writing: For Money or for Fun? Why Not Both?

  1. Couldn’t agree more! It’s kind of a faux pas, though, isn’t it? Admitting that one of the reasons you write is to make money. I mean, when people ask me why I write, I do the whole “because I love writing, because it’s fun, because I want to share my stories” blah blah blah, but money *absolutely* comes into it. It’s certainly not the driving factor, but like you said — as if I’m going to turn down a hefty paycheck!!!

    • That’s what I’m saying!! Why should it be a faux pas, you know? It’s so annoying that every writer should go around pretending that we aren’t in it for the money. Sure that’s not the main reason–it might not even be a BIG reason–but by goodness, I’m not going to be made to feel guilty that I want a piece of the action, you know? As if that makes what you write any less valid. If we all just did it ‘for fun,’ what would be the impetus to get your work out there? Lord knows it’s not for the critics! xD

      • Well, it’s the same with actors, isn’t it? When an interviewer asks them why they act, they say “Because I love acting” or whatever … because it would be tasteless to add “Oh, and I also love the multi-million dollar paycheck”. I guess we like our celebrities humble? But I don’t want to be humble. I wanna be rich! 😀

      • Ah ha ha, good point! Although I guess authors have it good. You can rake in good money, but you don’t have all that paparazzi and exposure and lack of privacy that actors have to deal with. Kind of excellent, really. Heck, lots of times people don’t even recognize you on the street.

      • Hey now! People recognize me all the time on the street. They’re like “Hey, it’s that girl with the insanely pink sweatpants and no fashion sense! Say hi, Clarisse!” And then Clarisse doesn’t say anything because she’s busy averting her gaze and pretending that I don’t exist.

      • xDDD I love pink sweatpants! Clarisse just doesn’t know what she’s missing. We all rock the sweatpants eventually. Although I’m not sure if this is about you being an author, but that’s okay–recognition is something to be proud of!

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