Growing up, I developed, as I’m sure many others did, stereotypical opinions of what I thought it meant to be a writer.
I placed them in two distinct categories:
The romance writer – The creators of paperback fantasies shelved on the bedside tables of women everywhere. They inspired hushed whispers about heart-throbbing heroes and an equal amount of snide comments from critics. After all, they were just trashy romance novels, not to be taken seriously.
The fiction writer – The introspective creators of literary fiction, suspense, horror, mystery, and fantasy. They spent years perfecting the next great American novel. They agonized over their notebooks and typewriters in darkened coffee houses and bars. Often loners, they were intimidatingly intellectual, and consumed by their goal of winning a Nobel Prize in literature.
I pictured the classic starving artists: The, forty-something man in a sweater vest and glasses, drowning his sorrows in bourbon as he throws balled-up pieces of paper to the ground containing words he deems unworthy of publication. And Miss lonely heart who once loved and lost it all, smoking her cigarette while pouring out her lack of love-life onto the page causing women everywhere to swoon and blush. Both misunderstood and most likely suffering from depression. These were people who spent their lives perfecting their craft. They either traveled the world searching for inspiration and insight into the human condition, or shut themselves away, introverts to the core.
Those were my stereotypes growing up, before I really fell in love with the written word. My ideal of what it’s like to be a writer has since drastically changed. I know that each has their own method, desires, passions, drive, experiences, and motives. I look up to them, romance writers included. After all, wasn’t Jane Austen a romance writer?
However, the “I will write to get rich quick” philosophy was never part of my musings. Sure, we heard about the rare writer who through their prolific words inspired generations. They attained fame as a respected wordsmith, winning awards and accolades from the literary world. But even with modern fiction authors like Stephen King, John Grisham, Nicolas Sparks, and Nora Roberts, who consistently attain bestseller status and secure film adaptations of their work, it’s never crossed my mind that they do it for the money.
J.K. Rowling’s rise to fame certainly changed the image of the starving writer for many people. She wrote fabulous books and won the literary lottery, earning more money than any of us can even fathom. We are happy for her and look to her as an inspiration for struggling writers everywhere. But wait, let’s back up a minute. She wrote fabulous books; books that will forever be classics. That is the key. Her books inspired millions to read. Suddenly, children and adults, who never read for pleasure before, picked up her books and fell in love with reading. Her books will live on, well past her lifetime. Why? Because they were really well written, extremely creative and original, delivered a powerful message about friendship, love, and loyalty, and were freaking awesome books. Her fame is well deserved.
That kind of fame for writing is extremely rare and wildly misunderstood. Unfortunately, I think too many people have started writing for the money. Please don’t misunderstand me. Writers should be paid for their work and paid well. This business of giving away books that writers have spent months or years writing for free is total horse sh!t.
However, somewhere along the line, in my opinion, some writers went from being passionate about writing the next great novel, to passionate about making a quick buck. This is not to say I look down on the successful writer. I don’t. I’m happy for them and want my own success someday. Success is a funny thing though, and everyone has a different definition of what success means to them.
Would I be upset at achieving true bestseller status? Hell no. I’d be proud, excited, and a bit scared if I’m being honest. But I’m having trouble getting to the point in this post, which may be why I’m not a successful writer yet.
Okay. My point is this: Why is it so damn hard for writers to accept that writing takes time, effort, passion, experience, and practice? Why are so many writers complaining they aren’t making enough money? Why do authors get angry when they don’t make it big?
I don’t freaking understand. When did writing become a quick-buck business?
It’s the same reason I don’t understand why teachers complain they are underpaid. Of course they are underpaid. It’s a travesty how undervalued teachers are. My father is a retired teacher. I have two kids. Teachers deserve more money. Their job is one of the most important on the planet; shaping young minds. But for crying out loud, they knew when they became teachers they weren’t going to make any money. Teachers barely make a living, this is nothing new. So they must have become teachers because they were passionate about teaching. Right? Right?
So why in holy hell are authors complaining about the money? It makes me want to tear my hair out. Writers are not paid enough. Most of them cannot live on what they make writing and have other full time jobs to support themselves. It’s a sad truth, but a truth just the same and is nothing new. Just like other artists, few are financially successful. We know this. The big time financial success is an exception, not the rule. This is no surprise. So what are they bitching about?
The only thing I can come up with is this: They started writing with the goal of making a ton of money.
Again, I will reiterate, there’s nothing wrong with writers making money for their work. They should make money. I applaud those who have. Every writer who becomes financially successful is an inspiration. But they aren’t really doing it just for the freaking money? Are they?
What happened to inspiring a generation? Where’s the passion? What happened to wanting to win a Nobel Prize? Where’s the joy of writing? Are you an artist? Are you interested in learning a craft? Yes, you can be passionate and make money doing it, but that’s not what I’m asking.
I wrote my first book just to see if I could do it. It was on my bucket list and something I had wanted to do for many years. So I did. And I fell in love with writing. I continue to write because it has become a passion. The honest truth is I’ve published two novels, one novella, and one short as part of a larger anthology and still haven’t broken even on my costs. So what. I didn’t start writing for the money. I fell in love with it. If money never comes, I will still love it. If money comes down the road, I’ll be grateful, but money is not my motivation. I consider writing an art. I want to learn as much as I can about the art of writing. I want to create my own masterpieces.
So it comes down to this: Do you write because you are passionate about it or to make money?
Let me hear your thoughts.
I was born and raised in San Francisco, CA, and have a husband and two children. Music is an addiction. I can often be found in the car, singing along at the top of my lungs to whatever is playing. I work full time, and I split my spare time between family, reading, blogging, and writing. I’m a habitual quoter. Lines from films and TV shows constantly pop into my head—my kids are the only ones that really get it. I’m an only child, and so of course I married a man who is one of ten children. Other than English, I speak Spanish, Moroccan, and a little French. I love to travel, but don’t do enough of it. Reading has been a passion for most of my life and I now love writing. I’m klutz, and in my own mind, I’m hilarious.
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