Writing isn’t generally a lucrative source of income; only a few, exceptional writers reach the income levels associated with the best-sellers. Rather, most of us write because we can make a modest living, or even supplement our day jobs, doing something about which we feel passionately. Even at the worst of times, when nothing goes right, when the prose is clumsy and the ideas feel stale, at least we’re doing something that we genuinely love. There’s no other reason to work this hard, except that love.
– Melissa Scott
The quote is by the SF writer, Melissa Scott, not the porn-star-turned-televangelist of the same name. Just wanted to make that distinction.
With all the whining and grousing I’ve been doing about not having enough time to write lately, it comes down to this. I love doing the writing. The act of sitting down and letting the ideas run amok in my head, finding their way via the fingers into the physical realm, reading back over the little microcosm I’ve dreamed up, spending time with the characters as they take shape, grow, change, unfold. Listening to these voices in my head. Writers are probably the only ones who can say that and not get committed.
This is not to say I think writers should expect not to be paid for what they do, simply because they love it. We don’t not pay doctors because they love what they do, or engineers, or musicians. Start-up publications that excuse their policy of not paying writers are very likely paying other staff. Why does the writer come last when it’s time to cut the checks? I moderate a writing group, and we had an ad come in today asking for writers for a non-paying market. I allowed the message, because some writers are willing to do this, and I didn’t think it was up to me to make up someone’s mind for them on this issue, but I did send a reply to the group pointing out that the site does not pay writers. I don’t expect to get rich writing, I really don’t, but I don’t think writers should work for free, either. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t be tearing my hair out trying to find time for it.