It’s a depressing fact to be sure, but what’s more depressing is the fact that so many people discourage writers because of this. “Why spend your time doing it if it doesn’t pay the bills better than that?” is a question I often hear and, from my online communications with other writers, is a common question we all hear. People don’t seem to understand why we would invest so much time in an endeavor that, in their opinion, gives back so little. But that’s the problem. The common denominator I notice in all of these questions (and other snarky “it isn’t getting you anywhere, now is it?” comments) is that these are also the most miserable people I know. They measure everything two ways: in dollars and cents, or what they stand to get back from it. If the scales don’t balance perfectly, they’re out. And they’re miserable because they’re stuck in a confinement of their own making.
If we only do things that pay back, then why on earth do people invest so much time in relationships and entertainment? We gain nothing through hobbies, or watching television or movies, or (Heaven forbid) spending any amount of time with people that can’t advance our careers, our bank accounts, or our convenience in life. If everything in life has to have a definite, measurable function in advancing our cause or purpose, then nothing matters beyond function. Relationships are useless. What good are common interests and hobbies if they don’t make money? Why get married, or have a family, or have pets, or take out mortgages on things like homes and cars and boats and other high ticket items – after all, that’s a drain of financial resources. Why bother with friends, or church, or eating out, or entertainment, or even buying more than the basic necessities if we aren’t going to allow ourselves to enjoy anything life has to offer unless it has a monetary value attached to it?
What scares me more than the paltry balance in my writing account is the fact that there are so many people that don’t understand what it means to do something just because you enjoy it, and you want to share it with the world. They don’t understand that it means more to have a niche audience that appreciates your work and is touched by it than a fat royalty check. They don’t understand the joy of finally getting that novel written, polished, and published – out of your head and into the world where as many (or as few!) people can access it as they please. They don’t even like stories, because reading makes them think, and thinking is a waste of time unless it leads to profit. I’ve known some people that say “I won’t get out of bed for less than ‘X’ dollars a day,” and they’re miserable once the income stream dries up. Because nothing lasts forever, and eventually you’re purpose is redefined. If money is your driving force, then you’re in real trouble. Especially in this crappy economy. You’re world can fall apart very quickly if your foundation is on money.
So yes, I know there are a lot of people out there that don’t get it. They don’t understand why I want to write novels and invest so much time in something that pays so little. That’s OK. Writing brings me joy, and sharing it with others expands that joy. , because for every one of them, I have more saying “thanks for writing this, I enjoyed it,” and the gratitude outweighs all the criticism. And that joy is something that nobody can ever take away.
Now if anybody wants to explain to me why playing video games is a useful pursuit, I’m all ears. That’s one that I don’t get.
That’s all today. Have a Happy Friday and a great weekend!