Here’s a truth: I have earned precisely zero dollars for my fiction. Two decades of studying the craft, thousands of practice pages, tens of thousands of hours. But you know what? That’s OK because I don’t write for money. I write for me, not for anyone else. My stories don’t have to be commercially valuable in order for me to know they matter. Writing is a labor of love. I write because I would shrivel into a sour crab-apple of a raisin-lady if I didn’t have at least a sliver of time to write each week. I wouldn’t love writing more if I made money doing it. Artists are supposed to starve. We are supposed to suffer for our craft. Therefore, I’m OK if I never earn a dollar on my fiction.
Here’s another truth: I am absolutely not OK if I never earn a dollar on my fiction. I long for a hefty book deal. I want my time (and my husband’s support and patience) to be rewarded financially. When supportive friends ask, “How’s the writing?” I want to say something other than, “Well, I’m still plugging along. I still love my agent. Still working on book #3.” I want to write a manuscript that creates a bidding war. I want to financially contribute to my family. I don’t write just for myself. I write because I want other people to read (and buy) my books. I want to earn so much money on my books that my husband can retire and we can afford out-of-state college tuition for the kids and fix the siding on the south wall of our house.
Man, does that last statement feel crass. Crass and stupid. Writers should never be writers if they are writing for the money.
On the other hand, I am a product of a society that uses money to assign value to things. I believe my work has value. I believe my time has value. Shouldn’t I be compensated? Isn’t it OK to want money?
Clearly, I have some inner turmoil when it comes to money and art. [Read more…]