Stephen King and I have something in common. Neither of us writes for money.Read the whole thing. Last week as I was trekking up a mountain in North Carolina, I found myself discussing the nature of creativity with a college-aged family friend. He was saying how he on principle avoided works that were too commercial in favor of more experimental, independent efforts. I countered that there wasn't necessarily an inverse relationship between the quality of an artist's output and its popularity. After all, everyone writes (or paints or clicks the shutter release or plucks his ukulele) with the goal of having others as his audience. And like Hallinan says here, though a project may only be known to ourselves and the inside of a filing cabinet, we're still writing it to improve, to sharpen our skills, to reach a level where we will delight readers all the more. We don't write out of some esoteric sense of artist worship, creating increasingly rarified and obscure compositions for ourselves alone. We don't write solely for digits in a checkbook, which we all know are easier to come by through exertions not involving a pad and pen. At a very basic level, we write because we want other eyes on what we've made -- even if only a few of them.
Of course we have different reasons for not writing for money. Stephen King doesn't write for money because he doesn't need any. He's already made approximately 23% of all the money in the world. I don't write for money because I don't earn any. ...
The question, of course, is why write? Why write if you're like Stephen, to whom more money is just added weight? Why write if you're like me, and money seems to avoid the sections of the shelves on which your books sit?
I think he and I write for the same two reasons. First, because we can't not write. It's what we do. And second, because we both want to get better. I think both Stephen King (whom I've never met) and I write to get better. I think, really, that's why most writers write. They know the only way to get better is to write.
(Picture: CC 2008 by Robert D Bruce)