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?


Doctor’s Order: A Little Self-Respect

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, image care of Wikimedia Commmons

Though imagination and creativity form the bread and butter of the writer’s world, there is no greater shield at their disposal than self-respect. If you write, you will be met with criticisms, with ridicule, with doubt. The writer needs to be able to stand against them, to take their words in stride yet have the power and the faith in themselves that they might continue on…

“Self-respect cannot be hunted.  It cannot be purchased.  It is never for sale.  It cannot be fabricated out of public relations.  It comes to us when we are alone, in quiet moments, in quiet places, when we suddenly realize that, knowing the good, we have done it; knowing the beautiful, we have served it; knowing the truth we have spoken it.” 
~Whitney Griswold

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

“He that respects himself is safe from others; he wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.” 
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow