Why Do You Write?

Don’t worry about the type of writing you do or how long you’ve had the creative bug. Focus on the reasons why. Some of you may feel an overwhelming need to express yourselves. Others feel a passion for the written word. In both cases, writing comes as naturally as drinking water to satisfy a thirst. You write because you must.

Perhaps you write for yourself, taking satisfaction from forming an idea into a finished piece. Perhaps you write for you family, preserving bits of history for future generations. Perhaps you write for publication, sharing your work with anyone willing to read beyond the first few lines.

What about money? Wouldn’t it be great to be paid for your work? A fiction teacher once told me to consider my reasons very carefully. If I sought fame and/or fortune, I ought to give up writing in favor of more practical skills.

Is it really that difficult to earn a living as a writer?

In the world of creative writing—particularly literary fiction and poetry—proper compensation seems like a halfforgotten dream. A select few literary journals offer high fees, but competition among writers is fierce. Smaller and less established journals may offer little or no monetary compensation.

In order to earn a living, many writers turn to trade and specialty magazines for more lucrative deals. Feature articles tend to generate considerably more income than creative writing. However, most editors aren’t interested in reading unsolicited manuscripts. For the writer, that means extra time spent on research and crafting a convincing query letter. Why is your article unique? Why are you the best writer for the job? Why should the editor care?

Ultimately, you have to decide if the benefits outweigh your efforts. If you’re making good money but hate what you’re writing, you’ve probably gone off track somewhere along the way. On the other hand, an old adage suggests that if you do what you love, the money will follow.

Betty Dobson is an award-winning writer of short fiction, essays and poetry. She also writes newspaper and magazine articles but is still waiting for those awards to materialize. In the meantime, she continues to run InkSpotter Publishing, which has three new books available and several more in the works for 2012.


Margaret Fieland said...

Betty, great post. I write because I have to write. My first love is poetry. I want to see my work published, but poetry is not going to pay the bills. Neither, at the moment, is the fiction I'm writing. That's fine with me - I support myself with my day job, and write at night and on weekends. It's a matter of choices and a balancing act. I've made mine.

Kathleen Moulton said...

Betty, I like the balance you gave in the last paragraph.

I am working at earning money through my writing. I found out it took some shifting in my thinking and I had to be willing. Bottom line is we have to give people what they want, but we can still enjoy what we're writing once we find it. If we keep at it, we will find our niche!

Karen Cioffi said...

Betty, insightful post. It sure is tough being a freelance writer. It's definitely a balancing act and finding the most lucrative avenue to pursue. Hopefully, that niche is in line with what you love to write about.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Betty, shall have to come back to this and really think about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. At the moment l guess l primarily write to try to help or support other new writers.
I've gone for the more practical option of "a real job" and writing in the in between times.

Considering Both the Downsides and Upsides of Writing Reviews

Dear Writers on the Move Readers,   I am busily rewriting my  How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically  for a second edition fro...