April 24, 2010 by David Gillaspie
Who writes for any reason other than to find a reader? As a writer you already have one reader; it’s either you, or the editor you pay, so you’ll need another reason Maybe a better question is who writes for any reason other than money?
Do you write because you have to? Is writing a part of your regular job, or something you do in your free time? If it’s part of your job, you get paid. If it’s part of your free time, you have to ask about the benefits of writing time.
Is it therapy? Do you write to avoid smoking, over-eating, drinking? A visit to a writing conference would show that failure while you mingle among fat drunks with bad breath.
Writing and drinking might be a traditional match, but some of the excitement of joining the alky-writer group wears off when you read that Hemingway could read Faulkner and tell when the booze kicked in. Where’s the loyalty? The only writing poster I had was Papa holding a Bud. One drunk calling another drunk a drunk is less than manly and honorable.
I see a more direct link between writing and wrestling and hope to join the brotherhood of former wrestler writers. Others in the group include Ken Kesey, the Oregon icon, and John Irving.
Any group defined by those two has high standards. One is Stanford grad school, the other is Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Kesey is the west, Irving the east. Read about Kesey in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Acid Kool-Aide Test and you start seeing things.
Did Kesey invent the Sixties? Maybe.
He did write One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. It eventually became an Academy Award winning movie, but only after Kirk Douglas was too old to play the lead.
John Irving wrote a book, then wrote a screenplay combining it with another book and won an Academy Award for his efforts. He once said he is glad he read Dickens before Hemingway; if it had been the other way around he says he’d be a copywriter instead of a novelist.
Kesey wrote for money and never got his share. Irving writes for money and probably has better safeguards on his bank than someone who kick-started the idea of hippies by hanging out with The Beats.
So how do you write for money? Do you pay fees to enter contests that have big awards? Do you submit your work to magazines that pay in copies of the edition with your work in it? Both are good ideas, but they aren’t money.
Have you self-published an ebook of expanded blog posts and tried selling it to the audience you thought you connected with for over a year? How’s that working? Are people actually paying for what they got for free? As a business model that idea has problems.
Are you working on new ideas and rewriting older pieces to repurpose your content? Experts say it’s a good idea. Focus your interests into an area where you can dominate the subject. Build that platform you need to launch a book. If you sell two copies, keep figuring out what to do next.
Most important to writers is keeping a grip on the story bronco. It wants to buck you off. It wants you to fall in the dirt. You’re either a rider, or you’re not; either a writer or someone waiting for the right time to write.
Now is the time. Of course only a fool would try to write for money, but now is the time. Only a deluded slacker would consider putting in the hours on the chair, but now is the time.
Writing motivation and advice is as varied as the twenty-six letters in the alphabet grouped into every word ever used. Success and failure get measured by the same stick, but only one result matters. It’s crazy to write, to think it matters if you write or not.
It only matters if you make it matter. It isn’t money. It isn’t awards. It is a time of doing something that matters more to you than it does anyone else you know.
All writers know the truth about writing. Doing it makes you better than not doing it.
So, what’ll it be?