Back at the beginning of the month, when so many of you participate in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), Nick Wilford posted about something many of us worry about: money. It’s something a lot of us worry about, especially in tough financial times. Early in the post, Nick said:
“I know that very few writers go into the game hoping that they will clean up–if they do, they’re either doing it for the wrong reasons or they’re suffering under an illusion.”
I found myself stewing over that line a little bit, to the point where, two weeks later, I have to comment on it further. The line bugs me. Note this is not to pick on Nick. I like Nick; I just happen to disagree with him, at least in part.
Success in the arts is often presented as an either/or thing. If you hang around any writing forum, it’s only a matter of time before someone posts a poll that asks, “Would you rather be a critical success and have very few sales, or sell a lot of books and be panned by the critics?” Essentially, the question is are you in it for art, or for money? My answer: why not both?
So many of us are afraid to admit the truth: we want money. Lots of it. We want to dive into it, like Scrooge McDuck, we want a vault like Harry Potter’s. But few are willing to admit. If we do, we’re mercenaries. We’re hacks. We’re not artists anymore. Few are willing to wear that label.
The truth is, once I started to see that maybe, just maybe, I could write pretty well, I started to hope, to dream. Dreaming that I could make it big, dreaming that I could clean up. Hoping I could sell enough to get a new car. Take the wife and kids on a proper vacation. Put a new roof on the house, replace some crummy windows, remodel the kitchen. I’d like to not have to worry about money–is that such a bad thing? Not in my book. Is it why I write? No. I write for assorted other reasons, some of which I can’t express easily However, money is part of the equation, particularly when it comes to seeking publication. Does this make me a bad guy? A sell out? I certainly don’t think so, but I’m kind of biased here.
Where Nick is right on the money (so to speak) is this: if you get into this expecting to clean up, you’re operating under an illusion. Especially if you’re doing your homework and understand the economics of writing at this point in time. If you base your retirement plan on having a couple of big bestsellers–really big bestsellers, like James Patterson bestsellers–then, yes, you’re doing it wrong. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming it, though. Dreaming is what we do, isn’t it?
Thanks as always for reading, and thanks for commenting. Have a great weekend!