Writing bad stories for good money

Photo Credit: readmedeadly.com

You will sell bazillions of copies, make bazillions of dollars, but even though it’s popular, pretty much everyone thinks your book sucks.

This is the line that sticks with me from a post I read recently on Nathan Bransford’s blog, entitled, “Would you take money or an award?” Because there was a time when my answer to that question would have come just as swift as it would have come sure, and that answer would have been that I would always prefer to be recognized as the author’s author, whose words will be renowned and recited by memory from the world’s most respected scribes from now ’til eternity walks with a cane.

“I want to be the author that people write songs about, man.”

That would have been the answer vocalized by a much younger me, before I had set foot on the artist’s path that took me through the thorn-infested thicket of  my life-as-an-adult-trying-to-pay-these-damned-bills. Because it is only after you, as an adult ‘artist’, have waged uncompromising warfare against the relentless, ruthless green hordes that you know what your mettle is truly made of. Whether your armor is made of cardboard and toilet paper, or something that can actually ward off an attack.

And also because one of the big questions I’ve had to ask myself as a professional writer/artist is why did I choose to be a professional in the first place? Was it only so people would experience my work and be jaw-droppingly amazed? Or is it also because I wanted to produce works that were jaw-droppingly amazing enough – but also commercially pleasing enough – that would induce legions of fans to rip open their wallets and praise me in a fashion that I can simultaneously appreciate while also paying these damned bills?

Which brings us to that dread four-letter word… compromise.

We need to eat. We need to write. We need to sleep. All of which means that if your writing embarrasses you so much that you can’t sleep at night, then there’s a problem. But if you’re writing is drawing critical praise from brilliant critical minds, yet your lights and water just got shut off and you have no way of rectifying that situation short of robbing the paperboy (OK, I know they don’t have paperboys anymore, but humor me for a minute), then there you have an equally big problem.

So you’re grown, right? Solve the problem. When you’re sleeping OK, and you’re not on a first name basis with all your bill collectors, and your creativity isn’t on life support, then you’re probably headed in the right direction.



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Writer and musician.

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