Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Passion Does Not Equal Martyrdom

On Nathan Branford's blog today, he wrote a post entitled Will Write For Food. The post itself is great, as always, and full of Nathan's usual pithy humor. The topic? People are actually writing query letters in which they say they need to publish their books because they are in dire financial straits. What struck me though was the comments - 57 as I write this - almost all in harmony about how awful it is to expect to make money writing.

Sure, we all want to publish, but it's the art of storytelling, the need to write, the love of writing that should drive us all. We shouldn't expect to actually make a living doing it.

What??? Okay, I admit I don't expect I will ever be the next Rowling or Grisham or Meyer or Sparks or whoever the latest, greatest moneymaker in fiction is. And I fully understand the tiny odds of making enough money to put food on the table and shoes on freakishly-fast growing children's feet. But do all of these people honestly think that writing is something people do as a sacrifice to mankind - the starving artist thing we must do but can't ever expect payment for?

I say, Baloney! There, I've said it. What is wrong with being asked to be paid for your hard work? I can get a job filing papers and plugging numbers mindlessly in a computer (done it) and get paid a livable wage, but just because I love doing something, I shouldn't expect to get paid for it?

Isn't that Oprah's mantra? Find what you love to do and figure out how to make a living doing it?

I'm not saying we writers should get rich. I'm not even saying everyone who publishes should get paid enough to cover their mortgage. I'm just saying, when we start acting like writing is passion and creative art and not work, and that we are so privileged to get to do it that we should be willing to do it for free, we are selling ourselves short.

I work hard at writing. I put in hours and hours a day. Sure, I love it. But there are doctors who love their work and still get paid. And accountants who salivate over money and figures and bankbooks, and they get paid. Just because I love doing something doesn't mean I should give up the idea of making money at it. If the publishing industry feels like authors are groveling just to be in print, they will continue to pay practically nothing to them and then fork over millions to celebrities for memoirs that have no chance of ever recouping that advance.

I can know the realities of it and still not agree with it.

I'm not holding out for that big paycheck. I'm not expecting to pay my house off with an advance. But just because I know writing doesn't pay well to the majority of authors, I still think what I do is valuable, and worth being paid for. Even though I love doing it.


  1. Couldn't have said it better myself.

  2. I agree. There's nothing shameful in admitting that we love writing, but for some of us it would still be a job and we'd like to be paid for it.

  3. Oh my gosh I totally agree and now I'm going to Nathan's to loudly crow that I wanna get paid!!!!

  4. Bravo! I agree completely 100%!

  5. Phew! After writing it (at midnight) I thought I'd done a lousy job of explaining myself!

    I couldn't believe how many people at Nathan's blog said that writer's shouldn't expect to make a living writing.

    Would we say that to musicians? Actors? Photographers? Sure, some make a whole lot more than others, but there are a whole lot that make enough to get by on.