I was thumbing through an old journal when I came across this interesting entry.
While I still was running Waking Up in December, 2006, a friend of mine suggested that I seek out paid writing work. I had an abundance of time in the store when no customers were around. I mentioned that I had begun working on a project. He asked if it was a paying project and I said no, that it was the novel I’ve always wanted to write. He quoted someone as saying that every person has a great novel within them, but in most cases, it should stay within them.
I’m glad I didn’t take that advice.
And you shouldn’t take it, either.
Being compensated financially for one’s writing is something that is merited. If a writer puts in the effort, she should be compensated by her readers who partake in the enjoyment of her work. However, to me, that is secondary. Writing to get paid is capitalist rhetoric. Getting paid for one’s writing is freedom.
For the disadvantages and dangers of the author’s calling are offset by an advantage so great as to make all its difficulties, disappointments, and maybe hardships, unimportant. It gives him spiritual freedom. To him life is a tragedy and by his gift of creation he enjoys the catharsis, the purging of pity and terror, which Aristotle tells us it the object of art. For his sins and his follies, the unhappiness that befalls him, his unrequited love, his physical defects, illness, privation, his hopes abandoned, his griefs, humiliations, everything is transformed by his power into material, and by writing it he can overcome it. Everything is grist to his mill, from the glimpse of a face in the street to a war that convulses the civilized world, from the scent of a rose to the death of a friend. Nothing befalls him that he cannot transmute into a stanza, a song, or a story, and having done this be rid of it. The artist is the only free man.
W. Somerset Maugham The Summing Up