Writing: For Self, not Sales

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”
~Cyril Connolly

Writers, take those words to heart.

Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins

"Painting the Writing Master." Image care of Wikimedia Commons.

I know many of you come to the pen with big dreams—sometimes those big dreams include fat wallets, legions of fawning women (or sparkling vampires, as you will), and possibly an honorary lifetime supply of Captain Morgan’s finest. Well I’m probably not the first to tell you, but kiddies, one writer to another, let me just say, that’s not the way of the world—and if that is your sole interest in this art, I think you may wish to consider a new career path. Quickly.

While I’m not saying the former examples couldn’t happen (sans sparkling vampires, at least as far as I know. Call the cops if a pale lad covered in glitter shows up on your doorstep though—garlic optional), in the real world, it’s unlikely. In fact, these days, it’s a miracle for most writers to even make it into a steady career. I don’t say it to be harsh. It’s simple fact. Writing is a big dollar business for publishers—not for writers. Writers, more often than not, turn to their writing as a second job. Their passionate job. The work that gives their lives meaning.

But still, a second job.

Writing is not about money. It’s not even about fame. Writing, in its purest form, is art—no different from the portraits in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the sculptures of the Frederick Meijer Gardens, and so on. It is art with a pen, rather than the hammer or the brush. While these things can produce the other two, they should be undertaken for a love of the craft, and the howling of the soul.

Yes, howl. Like a werewolf. If writing doesn’t stir the primal in you, if it doesn’t roar through you with all the power of a freight train, if the thought of never writing again—regardless of whether anyone ever would or could lay eyes upon it—doesn’t crunch your soul into a knot, than perhaps you should re-evaluate what you are doing.

Why do you write?

Do you write for your family? What about fame? The almighty dollar? Or do you write because the sun rises in the morning, sets in the evening, and leaves starlight to bathe the night in silver?

It is that intrinsic to my own nature—and to my sanity. What does writing mean to you?

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13 thoughts on “Writing: For Self, not Sales

  1. Write because I have so much in my head that it must come out..haha. But yeah write for yourself is the best advice anyone can give. For all that other crap, probably will never happen.

  2. I completely concur with your points about unrealistic dreams about fame and fortune through writing, I certainly had them when younger. I suspect, though, that young wannabe writers will keep right on having them, only to be disappointed by reality, unless they are one of the very few lucky success stories, which sometimes do happen.

    Maybe that painful learning process is necessary for writers, those who don’t give it up. You know, what doesn’t squash your writing urge makes you stronger — and crazy enough to still keep trying.

    I suppose some authors have successfully used money as their motivator. I don’t know — they are not the kind of writers I read. But it’s not a good career plan.

    Anyway, I just started my blog here, My Last First Novel. Please check it out. I’ll be following your blog and would love to hear of other good writing blogs.

    • We have to build our thick skins somehow! A touch of the crazy does help though ;). I’d certainly agree on the money driven authors point though – if that’s their theory, alright, but it doesn’t tend to make for good writing. Ironically, of course, those are usually the ones mass-producing books detailing ways of how the rest of us should go about the writing process…hm…

  3. haha…my writing dreams don’t include legions of fawning women…just saying..smiles.. love the quote chris and it’s so true…write for a love of the craft, and the howling of the soul..love that chris

    • No? Ah, well…long as you’re evading the sparkly vampire substitute, I think all’s still well my friend. Thanks for stopping in, Claudia – and glad you liked the quote. It’s too true – it’s the inspiration that should drive us, not the dollar signs!

  4. I like your post Chris G. But I am the least among the apostles, and I could not be so presumptuous to call myself a writer—when I am yet to master the art of sentence construction. Nevertheless, I consider it fun to share my thoughts on WordPress, and when other read what I have shared, it is even more fun. One cannot put a price on that. Thanks for sharing a beautifully written post–a mixture of poetry and Literature.

  5. I said almost exactly the same thing in an interview a couple weeks back. Writing is not a get-rich-quick-scheme. If young writers can’t accept the fact that the odds say they will never make any money from their writing, they should pursue a different course. Writing is an art and a craft that most of us feel compelled to pursue, but it’s a long, tedious, arduous path with no guarantees of any measure of monetary success.

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