Dr Samuel Johnson claimed, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”
Dr Samuel Johnson, compiler of one of the first accessible dictionaries, was an intelligent man. However, he was also capable of talking an infinite amount of bollocks. Either that, or I resent the implication that a man who’s been dead for more than two centuries is calling me a blockhead.
In classes, when teaching creative writing, I always encourage students to write for money. Publishing credits are obviously important. And there are many occasions when publishing credits and no payment are a preferable alternative to not having any publishing credits. But because we live in a consumerist society, where intrinsic worth is measured in fiscal terms, one of the surest ways for an author to affirm their success is to cash a paycheque for their writing.
Virginia Woolf said that writing is a lot like sex. First you do it for love, then for a few close friends. And eventually, you end up doing it for the money.
I tend to agree with the sentiment behind this thinking, although I don’t believe that the initial love ever goes away. This morning I was out of bed at and writing by . The delay between waking and writing was only prolonged by my need to make a coffee, smoke a cigarette and take an obligatory pee. I’ll probably be writing until around tonight, maybe later, and I’ll have taken maybe one meal break in that time along with too many smoke breaks.
I don’t get paid for everything I write. The novel I’m currently working on might never see the light of day. I hope it does. It’s a fun post-modern romp that should prove to be a metafictional experience for the reader. But it could transpire to become a 500kb wart of wasted hard drive space and a reminder of three months of my life that I’ll never get back.
Fortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. I’ve written some novels that have sold well, which is why I continue to write and write and write. However, I’ve also written some stories that have been read and rejected by enough publishers/editors to make me realise that some of my stories are not worth printing.
What I’m struggling to say here is, I enjoy being validated by the payment – I have bills and needs that require money – but I’d probably still be writing regardless of whether or not the payment was there. Most likely, the only thing that would change would be the number of hours I was able to devote to putting words on paper. But, whether it’s for love or money, I guess I’d still be doing it.