Why I Write

More years ago than I like to remember, I attended a night class at a local college. The subject, freelance writing. All these years later, I don’t remember much of what the instructor taught about being a freelancer. Other than the end product of the class was to produce a saleable article that was ready to market to a paying editor. The instructor, who was a reporter for a local weekly rather than a freelancer, reiterated several times in the course that the only reason to write was to make money. In fact the first class he asked the rhetorical question of why do we write. Of course the answers varied as each student extolled the grandiose reasons why they endeavored to put words on paper. One student proclaimed that he wrote to make money. As far as the instructor was concerned, to make money was the best and only answer. Any other answer was some pie in the sky romantic idealistic self-image of writers that were out of touch with reality.

I’m not naive. Each and every one of us freelancers want to make money writing. Or we wouldn’t be in the business of freelancing. However, there is so much more to writing than only making money.

For me, it is the creativity, among other reasons. I love writing novels. The act of putting words on a blank page, or I should say a blank screen, is exciting. Creating characters with all their strengths, weaknesses, and travails ferments the imagination. And hopefully, with the libertarian slant of most of my novels, I can effect change. Grandiose? Certainly. So what?

With the articles I write, hopefully a reader learns something new. In the least, I hope she is entertained.

I admit, before I write an article for publication, I have a financial bottom line. In the freelancing business, if I think the pay for an article doesn’t meet my financial expectations, I don’t write it. That’s why I study markets and query first. No effort without adequate pay.

With that said, I also hope to educate and entertain. If I believe I can’t do one or the other, then again, I don’t seek the assignment no matter how much it pays.

Some time ago I wrote a mission statement for my writing business. Something I recommend every writer do if they are serious about writing. In the statement I wrote the words “to entertain and effect change.” Nowhere did I write to make money as the reason for a writing business.

Some great guru of the past in the self-help market once said, do what you love and the money will follow. This is somewhat my philosophy. Though I think you the writer should be smart about doing what you love and the money following. But, there is wisdom in the statement.

To sum it up, I like making money from my writing. There’s nothing wrong with making money from writing. But there is so much more. Take a long introspective look at yourself and decide what those reasons are. You’ll be much more successful. In not only the writing business, but any endeavor.

An acquaintance put it well. It’s not that we want to write. It’s that we have to write.

Well said. If money is your only reason for writing, probably success will elude you. Keep the money factor in mind, but explore all the other reasons you want to put words on a blank screen. It will pay off. With more than only money.

For those of you who are curious, did the aforementioned writing class produce a saleable article? For me, no. In fact, I still have the article I wrote for the class. I read it recently and was struck by just how unsaleable the article was. And to think the instructor gave me an A grade for the unsaleable article. If memory serves me right, everyone in the class received an A. It must have been an A for effort. Because, thinking back, I don’t remember the class producing anything that was saleable.

Dennis Pence