For love or money?

Thirty-five years ago, I received my first check for a piece of writing. The Peru Tribune paid me five bucks for a sweet little piece about my grandmother’s Indiana farm. It was hokey as hell. But they printed it. And they paid me.

That’s the big dream of a lot of writers–to be able to earn enough money pursuing the muse to be able to pursue the muse. Such a small proportion of writers actually hit that mark that–well, Han Solo was right. Never tell me the odds.

Since then I’ve had articles and fiction printed in publications small and large, national distribution, some of them. One book in print, two stories coming out in Cup of Comfort book editions in the next year. All of which I’ve been paid for. Not enough to give up my day job by a long shot.

Fellow writers are confused about my devotion to my blog and my Firefox news writing as they don’t come with a direct paycheck. (Well, the Firefox gig pays with a share of ad revenue, but only as a result of clicks on the Google ads on the page. If no one clicks, then…nada.) Why waste your time publishing what doesn’t pay? You should concentrate on the works-in-progress that have monetary potential, they say.

I put some thought into this at the end of last year, when I created the blog. It was fairly quickly apparent that I couldn’t collect ad revenue at a WordPress-hosted site, so I put the ad on my homepage. Not exactly making money hand over fist. At Firefox too, I might earn pennies a day. But is that all that matters?

Writers write, so readers can read.

Oh, sure, there’s the “something flows from inside of me and I must put it down on paper, else I shall simply burst!” part. But none of that applies to a check, either. We write so others will read what we write. By this process, we share something special.

As you can see, this blog has been accessed some 13,000-plus times. Of course, those aren’t all discrete readers–I hope at least one or two of you stop more than once! But in about nine months, that’s about 1,400 times a month someone has read my words.

I totalled up the Firefox hits the other day–since I started writing for that site five months ago, I’ve had over 37,000 separate hits on my stories. Those are much more likely not to be the same folks over and over, just because of their fanbase.  So between the two, I’ve had someone read my words some 50,000 times this year.

Sure, I keep writing the other, the novels, the short stories, the travelogues, hoping they’ll catch the eye of an editor or agent somewhere, so that I can invest in my pursuit shoes. In the meantime, there’s 50,000 people who have read what I’ve written, people from all over the country–maybe all over the world.

These may not have “paid,” in the way so many of us would like to be. But I’ve got to believe the words have paid off, in the way that has been true since the first storytellers began, in the connection of one person to another, an idea that sparks from one mind to the next, changing both people, even in some small way, forever.

10 thoughts on “For love or money?

  1. You mean there are people who do work in this world not for money, but because they love it???!!??

    Who are these people?

  2. i don’t see any reason why you can’t do both… oh, wait. there’s that “time” thing. still, do what brings joy – and sometimes? being paid to write brings joy! not such a paradox after all, is it?

  3. I’ve discovered that my life consists of two different types of writing. There’s the stuff I do for money – I’m a hired gun, writing what my client wants me to write, how my client wants me to write it. Not particularly creative or passionate or romantic. It’s just what I do to pay the bills.
    And then there’s the writing that has not turned a dime. My blog, my novel manuscript, the stories I write for my kids. That which I do for love. The words my soul feels compelled to create and put out there.
    I know that tons of people will see the neat little business profiles and smartly written copy I do for money. And that’s nice. But even though far fewer people will read it, I take much more pride in my unpaid work because it is what I do for me. And the people who read my ‘real’ writing matter to me more. As you said, those are the people to whom I feel more connected as a writer. Even if they aren’t coughing up seventy-five cents a word.

  4. I like to think that your blog is your purest form of writing. Call me naive, but I think the stuff you write NOT for pay is what you really want to write, the way you want to write it. Sure, you can get paid to write those things too, but I guess I feel like what you write here is undoubtedly close to your heart simply because you don’t have to write it.

    And for the record, I LOVE it. Your blog is a favorite for sure!


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  7. It is such a dilemma – to write for love or money.

    I just quit my day job to hopefully do both, but it is a scary proposition. Blogs are such a unique tool because you can get things out there to readers in such a casual and intimate matter, it is almost better than being published sometimes. Your blog is def going into my reader – nice to find a kindred writer out there! Please visit my blog if you can!!

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