Feb 6, 2007

Why Writing?

by Terri Wagner

The former post is a great segue into my post for the day. Why do you write? This question comes up often in my other writers' club. Since that club is made up of people who are writing mostly--frankly--for themselves, the answer is always: something I want to do, something to change the world, to define myself, to follow my passion, etc.

I just want to make money. I'm not out to change the world or answer some great passionate need. I guess it tracks back to when you decided to write. I was in high school and a friend of my boyfriend's wanted to be a journalist. So she asked me (she thought I was good in English) to critique something she had written for a journalism class. I did. And thought, "Hey I can write better than that." That simple, and yes--looking back--terribly arrogant. I didn't pursue this vocation in college; I had another more important interest, teaching history. To me teaching was a noble cause, writing was for fun and for money. Imagine my surprise when lo these many years later, I ended up writing. Since I was only in it for the money, I have no big beef with publishers or agents or readers. I just try to give them what they want so they'll want more.

I took a course at William and Mary from a guy who wrote technical brochures for a living. (Yes, the ones you fuss at when you try to follow the easy-to-assemble instructions on a put-together project). He was hysterical because he maintained that everyone really secretly writes for the money and the ego trip. He threw up the fact that he made a wonderful living doing the gritty stuff.

My question to all of you is this: Does writing for the money, glory, interest make you more publishable because you are willing to write to the market OR is it the passion that really counts in the end? I'm curious as to what you think.


  1. Hmmm. I think those who write out of passion have a leg up (or pen up . . .) in this business because their passion will help them stick in the fight and keep learning. I imagine most people who do this for money realize fairly quickly that there are easier ways to make money that aren't nearly so hard on the ego. (I mean in what other profession do you submit your best work to a lot of places just so they can tell you, "Sorry, it's not good enough for us . . .")

    Then again, that same passion can make people stubborn about keeping things in their writing that make it unsellable. Perhaps a good writer needs a mixture of both artistic passion and greed.

  2. Thanks for the thought provoking question, Terri. Hmmm....

    Janette, I enjoyed the way you stated it...a mixture of both artistic passion and greed. I agree.

  3. Don't you think it makes a difference what the passion is for? If it's just to write, then the money means nothing, and one can scribble on grocery sacks and the backs of envelopes and do fine. However, if one wants to be read, if one wants to reach an audience, then sometimes one--oh, bag that--then you have to realize that if someone is going to take a chance on publishing you, you'd better give them something that will sell. The beautiful thing about it is, there are all kinds of audiences out there. Everyone can find her niche--given the passion to stay with it, that is. Time enough to find out that the advice not to quit your day job after you've been published is sage indeed.


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