For the writerís among us, why do you write? If you are one of the few that make a good living at it, fantastic! If you are just getting started and your goal is money, then perhaps you should look for another career. Sure, it would be nice to wake up early to a cup of java and keyboard and spend the rest of the day punching out another best-seller, occasionally glancing out the window at the beautiful weather and to see if the mailman brought another royalty check. Some people do live that life. And some people do go from garage band to Grammy, but what are the odds. Oh, youíre a talented writer. First, there are lots of talented writers that rarely sell. Second, are you really that good? Okay, maybe you can turn a good phrase, but do you have something unique to say? Third, whatís talent got to do with it? Go through the book store and start pulling random books off the shelf. Open it to the middle and read a paragraph. Is it awful or fantastic? Unless youíre in the literary section, odds are, itís awful.

Now, if you write because you enjoy itÖ If you write because the labor of art production is relaxing, cathartic, a means of getting in touch with deeper thoughts and coalescing thought fragments into greater realization/understanding...

Many painters paint oils or watercolor for themselves, they donít care to sell and some donít even display their works for others to see. Many art jewelers create with the primary aim of producing objects of aesthetic beauty, but with a secondary goal of making a few bucks Ė or at least subsidizing an expensive hobby since precious stones and metals are not cheap. There are very many poets that create their works solely for themselves and maybe for a few friends. Countless photographers snap photos for their own amusement only and may never even print a picture. Sculptors create huge pieces knowing very few people would have interest in actually buying something for the yard, especially some gaudy structure thatís difficult to mow around.

To some people, artists that produce for themselves may seem selfish for not sharing, but we all engage in activities that arenít for the benefit of others. There are zillions of different activities people engage in that are for mere enjoyment and nothing else, such as: playing computer games, bird watching, exercising, hiking alone in the woods, reading, and watching television. For some people, producing art is the same and there is no compulsion to share with others.

But, there is no harm in making money or gaining other benefits from oneís labor. If a painter earns money or wins accolades, so much the better. Some artists argue that the grand feelings they derive from producing art is all that matters. However, there are many activities that produce enjoyment and are not shared. Doing illicit drugs certainly gives some people pleasure, but there is no other benefit. If all the artist seeks is pleasure, then other pursuits may offer equal or better enjoyment. The artist, and I include writers and poets under the term ďartist,Ē gains self expression and satisfaction from actually producing something. That product can be a commodity. Thereís no harm in profiting from art.

Or is there harm in profiting from art? When one begins to produce art to please others and not as self-expression or for only aesthetic merits, then thereís risk that the art form will degrade or the art production may become a chore. When a sculptor creates for entertainment, itís fun. When a sculptor creates for money, it becomes work and less enjoyable. Sometimes, like when producing pieces for particularly demanding clients, the work becomes a detestable chore. The process of creating art is killed.

Writing for art and writing for money are very different things. There is a division between commercial fiction and literary fiction. Sometimes a project can be both a literary work and a commercial success. But, what is the goal for the author for writing the piece? That is the crux of the matter. The writer might dummy down the piece if itís for commercial mass-markets. The writer will use common words instead of more expressive, intricate words. Sometimes an arcane word is the most succinct way to express a fine point, but is it useful since the mass-market reader wonít bother looking it up in a dictionary? Rhetorical devices are useful in creating interesting sentences and transforming an average work into beautiful prose. But rhetorical devices, particularly more complex use of devices, are often distracting for the readership accustomed to mass-market books. Furthermore, complex plot lines, advanced philosophical or sociological ideas, and other characteristics of a literary masterpiece, are beyond the realm of many mass-market readers. A reader that canít comprehend the work will find the work boring. However, some of the best literary masterpieces are enjoyed by both snooty intelligentsia and the common milieu.

What of second drafts? Someone writing for markets should always edit, proofread, and re-edit their work. Many authors that write for pure pleasure, with no thought of trying to sell the work, will never write a second draft. They enjoy the initial creative process and thatís it. Journal writers almost never edit their writing. Some poets will write, re-write, and then continue re-writing till the initial piece bears little resemblance to the final work. Many (or most) authors consider work on second or third drafts to be tedium; however, I thoroughly enjoy this process. I like tweaking a mundane piece into something better. My first novel, which will probably never sell, is now in its fifth revision. The third novel is in process and will suffer many revisions. But I have a slew of first draft essays and short stories in boxes never to be found again.

So, why write? Because you enjoy it. Itís a cheap hobby, certainly a lot cheaper than a motorboat and a lot safer than cave diving.