Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I could use an epiphany

I was reading Jordan Summers's recent post at Romancing the Blog the other day on the subject of writing for money vs. writing to make ourselves happy.

It's the age old debate all writers face. Do we go where the money is, write what's selling at the moment in order to keep paying the bills, or write what we love because that ultimately gives us a better chance of wowing the pants off our readers [assuming someone buys our stuff] and it makes us happy and content?

The consensus of course is to write for happiness. It's like marrying for love. You shouldn't do it for any other reason. Nevertheless, despite the virtue of that addage, there's still that lurking need to earn a buck and that insidious envy of the authors who just happen to LOVE writing exactly what's hot at the moment.

Ms. Summers said she had an epiphany of sorts and decided to write only for herself regardless of the salability of those stories. She's happier for it, and I envy her that decision. I've never actually said to myself, or anyone else, I'm writing for the money. I'm not...really...but I am trying to make a living at writing. I've wanted writing to be my full time job my whole life. Not a hobby, not a side gig, but my one and only career and now that I'm smack dab in the middle of the growing pains of said career, I have to balance the need to earn [and hence justify doing ONLY this] and the need to write because I love it.

The whole point of always wanting to be a full time author was that I wanted to have a job that I loved. Not just something I could tolerate doing until retirement, not a job I hated that paid well and therefore would never be worth quitting, not a job that just filled the hours until I had enough money saved up to quit and play around all day. I wanted to LOVE going to work, to get up in the morning and look forward to my daily tasks.

I know that's a lot to ask of any career and/or job. Probably 98% of the people I know either actively despise or at the very best tolerate their jobs. The all play the lottery with the idea in mind that if they hit it big, they'd hire a limo to drive them to work one last time so they could Quit with a capital Q.

Not that I would look a lottery jackpot in the mouth, mind you, but I really never wanted that - essentially to spend all my time daydreaming of the moment I could quit my job. I wanted to do something that I would do even if I had all the money in the world, a career that would only become more enjoyable if I didn't have to worry about how the bills would get paid.

So what I need now is an epiphany. The ability to look at my work and say, I love this even if it doesn't earn me a lot of money and I love it enough to knock myself out working at it so that one day it will make me a lot of money, and I love it enough to write what I want to write and not worry about what's making money these days because I'll be happier in the long run.

If anyone can get me a price quote on that epiphany...


Dayna_Hart said...

Price quote: Keep that lottery ticket handy?

I find it hard...there are huge chunks of the writing gig I actually hate...yet I can't imagine not doing it. Or doing something else.

I try to love parts of it. A character. A phrase or line or plot twist.

And I like to imagine the next hot trend will be just what I'm writing :)

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Hi Dayna! Yeah, the lottery ticket never hurts. LOL. A hopeful attitide is the best one - even when the trends are depressing it's good to remember they're only trends and they will change with the wind. One day we'll all be riding the wave.

Jennifer Elbaum said...

The ultimate high wire act isn't it? Since you know I'm struggling with the same question, I won't venture an opinion, but if you find those epiphanies on sale, you'll call me, right?

gwen hayes said...

Most likely, it has to be a combination of both in order to be successful and happy with a career.

It has to be a "job" in the way that you have to be serious and diligent in your efforts. But also, you get to wear feather boas and flannel jammies at the same time--which ain't half bad.

However, if you HATE what you are writing, that won't work either. I think writing what you want, but being diligent, is beneficial. And surrounding yourself with good business people so you can just worry about being creative.

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Jen, I will definitely call you. Maybe we can get a two-for-one deal.

Gwen, I think the bottom line is worry. I'm trying to worry about every aspect of the 'business' and I'm losing sight of the joy of creativity.

Natasha said...

If we can't enjoy it, what's the point? But to be honest, I want to make money with my writing too. So hopefully, we can find a balance. We need to try to find joy in whatever we're writing and that joy should come across to the reader. At least we can hope so.

Great post, JAC.

Jennah said...

Such a timely post. I want to be happy where I am with my writing but I'm always hoping it will end up paying me enough to stay home and do it full time. I think we've all been there.