Can you write for love AND money?

Many artists think you can’t. And not simply because they envy those who are selling hundreds of thousands of copies.

The reason they think this is for the simple fact that the creative process is fueled by following the zing. It’s ruled by passion. You have to care about AND believe in what you’re writing. You have to because if you think it’s boring or unbelivable, then it’s likely everyone else will as well. 

For example, let’s say you are deeply bored by vampires, but see that vampire love stories are making piles of cash and decide to write about one with smoldering eyes and a bad habit of chewing tobacco even though it leads to dental problems with the fangs (hey, why would her man-toy care?), then you’re substituting passion (that which springs up from within) for graphs and plots about marektability (stuff that’s imposed from without).

And so many folks think that there’s a continuum. On one end is writing for passion. On the other is writing for money. And the two don’t cross. But this is a false dichotomy. The truth is that money and passion are independent factors.

Lon Prater, a writer friend, recently expressed it this way.

Not a dichotomy, but rather an X and Y axis, the way I see it.


low love, low money (SEO writing?)

low love, high money (For me, this would be tech writing, or media tie-in to a universe I didn’t care about)

high love, low money (unfortunately too much of my writing!)

high love, high money. (Loftiest of goals) 🙂

You can find datapoints for every quadrant, and of course “love” is highly subjective and individualized, as are what counts as low and high for each writer.

If we put labels to the quadrants, we get something like this, along with common emotions they tend to evoke in other writers. (Although I will say that envy seems to want to run amok in the author quadrant as well.) 


Tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Can you write for love AND money?

  1. juliecfrost says:

    In a just universe, the author writes what’s he’s passionate about, the audience picks up on the passion and buys his work, and the universe throws buckets of money at his head. Alas and woe, the universe is an unjust place. If it throws buckets of money at me for this Project That’s Eaten My Brain Since July, no one will be more surprised than I.

    And then there’s the poor fanfiction writer, who writes for mad love and no money and is subject to both disdain and pity.

  2. John Brown says:

    Hum, I didn’t think of fanfic. But I certainly don’t think they go in the drugde area. I think they’re in the artiste area. LOTS OF PASSION. Very little moo-lah.

    But you’re right. Writing a lovely story, getting a contract, and finding an audience are all three VERY different things. You can succeed at the first or even the second and still bomb on the third.