Writing for Money and Happiness

Tonight I’m up drawing maps for a Goodman Games dungeon crawl, sorting ideas for the World of Darkness open call, drinking coffee and listening to “I Need a Lover That Won’t Drive Me Crazy” on repeat, which --- in all likelyhood --- immediately disqualifies me from the novel contest.

I had planned on getting to bed early, but before I knew it was one in the morning, and itunes is still showing no signs of wear. This is when I’m happiest with my writing, when the projects are still embryos and still have the potential for greatness. They’ll be flawed eventually, but right now they are perfect in their ambiguity.

Enough of the update. Back to wealth and happiness.

We all know that we’ll never get rich by writing, or at least there is a very, very slim chance that at some point we might be able to pay a couple rent checks with royalties. For a moment let’s imagine that we’ve all accepted this and move on to happiness. We talk about economics all the time; let’s spend a little time with the emotional half.

Just as writing won’t make you rich, so too publishing can’t make you happy. Sure, you would be happy as a mouse on the moon if you sold a Realms novel tomorrow, but then what? You go out, raise a few too many toasts, and when you wake up in the morning, you are the same writer that you were before you sold your novel.

Hmm. This hair may be too fine to cut in a blog at 1:32 in the morning, but let me try again.

When we’re unhappy we take a look around and assess the things we haven’t got. Me, I haven’t sold a book. So if I’m unhappy, it must be because I haven’t sold a book. This look/assess/move instinct is what kept us alive when we were living in caves (“I’m cold. No fire. Go get fire.”) but it can be misleading in our modern lives. Most of us have everything we need --- food, shelter, warmth --- but we still carry a persistent sense of unease. I’m no anthropologist, but I’d argue that this ennui is hardwired into our human code. Once upon a time it kept us alive, now it is what makes us tune into the shopping channel, get divorces, buy new cars, and --- for some of us --- write books. It's not a bad thing in an of itself, just as long as we can recognize it for what it is.

I’m not being terribly clear here. Let me try one last time, then I promise I’ll go to bed.

You’re an author. So when you get pinged by your own personal ennui , you write. But we all write, and we all know that the annoying Jiminy Cricket on our shoulder doesn’t go away. So we set our sights on selling stories. Surely then we will feel a sense of accomplishment and validation.

But it won’t, because Jiminy still wants more. Another story, a book maybe, certainly a trilogy. And yet, every time you come home at the end of the day, you still come home to you: perfectly imperfect, plagued by doubts and insecurities, envious, proud, and all of those other qualities and failures that make me love you so much.

What I’m trying to say is this: there are many reasons for publishing. But money isn’t one of them and neither is happiness. All the novels in the world won’t be able to solve the internal mess. You have to deal with that yourself.

Those of you that haven’t clicked on to the next link already might be scrolling back to the top of this post, where I mentioned that I’m happy tonight, writing. It’s true. The potential for these works has made me happy for the moment, but when I wake up tomorrow I’ll have to go at it all again, and when you’re as bad a writer as I am, you have more off days than on days.

If there were a summation to this post, it would be this: writing is a magical act, but please, please, please don’t assign it more power than it deserves. Would-be writers quit every day because it hasn’t made them rich/beautiful/happy, and I want to be reading your works when we’re both 90.


At 1:44 PM, Blogger ec said...

Now that you're in Colorado, you're in the right approximate area for the werewolf line! Best of luck on the open call.


Post a Comment

<< Home