[DISCLAIMER: Because I always feel the need to explain myself, this blog post was written chiefly to myself and is not intended to dissuade any writer from publishing books or making money off of writing. It is simply to encourage writers who don't glean anything from their writing, at least in the world's eyes, to keep on with their craft. Creativity is its own reward.]
I spend more money maintaining this website than I make from it, because I don’t make a cent off of this website (no ads here). It might be cool someday to reach a point where I have thousands of followers and subscribers, an email list that extends to infinity, and boodles of sponsors pouring money on me. Indeed, that would make all of my current seemingly-fruitless endeavors on this blog worth it! But I don’t need money, sponsors, or thousands of followers to justify the existence of this blog or what money I spend maintaining the domain for my website. Money or even remote success has never been the goal and never will be when it comes to my writing.
When I was in high school I used to write novels or attempt to at any rate. I participated in the NaNoWriMo challenge several years in a row. For the record, all of those novels ended up in the garbage bin and I pray they never see the light of day again. At the time it only seemed natural for a person who loved to write to call herself an “aspiring author”. That’s what all writers are, right? We are authors-in-the-making. Authors who don’t make a living off of what we do, but anticipate getting something from it at some point. Except, not. After high school I decided I didn’t want to write novels or publish books. That wasn’t my dream or my vision. Maybe one day I’ll endeavor to write a worthwhile book, but if I do it will be when I’m much older and have gained the wisdom and experience that makes rich worthwhile material.
About three years ago I started working a day job as an administrative assistant. The majority of my hours every day are now spent entering data into a computer, drinking coffee, standing by the copy machine, answering phone calls, and whatever menial tasks my coworkers and employer might need from me. It’s a quiet, humble job, but I enjoy it thoroughly. I work in a plant and in some ways it reminds me of Gaskell’s North and South. There are so many different types of people from different walks of life where I work—the mechanics, machinists, engineers, accountants, salesmen, and the list goes on.
This is not exactly the kind of job I imagined ever enjoying but I really love it and I enjoy it all the more because it’s expanded my understanding of the world ever-so-slightly. It’s helped me become an adult, given me a bigger reference point for my understanding of the economy, society, business, and even politics.
My job has also helped motivate me to write.
I always assumed that in order to keep myself inspired and invigorated for my craft, I would need to keep myself surrounded by like-minded people who thought like me and shared my love for creative endeavors. Connecting with like-minded people is fantastic and inspiring, but it’s normal life that fuels a writer’s pen—the plight of the everyday man, the surge and decline of society, and how every beating heart fits into the giant web of this world and eternity. I think of my favorite authors—Chesterton, Lewis, Dickens, Gaskell—and what inspired their writing? Eternity. Humanity. Society. I also think of when my favorite authors published their best novels and I don’t think any of them ever wrote anything worth much at the age of fifteen, except for maybe Chesterton.
My point is, when it comes to writing and writing something worthwhile, maturity, experience, education, and perspective are vitally important. These are things I don’t have much of at this point.
Maybe the best thing we can do for our creativity is to let it incubate and not stir it up before it’s grown to full fruition, kind of like love and romance. Don’t wake it before its time. And in the meantime, stop calling yourself an author when you haven’t published any books and stop feeling like you have to publish a book and make money from your creative craft as soon as you possibly can to justify your writing. We writers know we don’t write to sell books. We write because we need to. We write to understand and to give understanding. Our society would have us believe that if it’s not making us any money, it’s not worth it, but we know that’s not true. The best things for our souls never benefit our bank accounts. So stop justifying your creativity. Stop justifying your writing. Write because you need to. Write because writing is its own reward. Don’t be in such a hurry to get the grand prize. It will come when it's time, trust me.
It is nice when you have some credentials to show for your creativity, but the only thing that makes your creativity worthwhile is when you’re willing to do it with or without anything to show for it, when there’s no guarantee of a reward apart from the writing itself, be it credentials, trophies, or money.