What’s a writer’s first goal: sharing ideas or making money?

“Recently, though, it occurred to me that the end goal for aspiring writers always seems to be ‘getting a book deal’ or ‘getting published,’ and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I might not be entirely happy about that.” – Paul Hogan in his writing newsletter “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives.”

Hogan, a successful writer, writing consultant, and blogger at the granddaddy of literary blogs (Beatrice) finds it interesting that a lot of people pick up hobbies such as painting or guitar playing with no thought whatsoever of becoming an illustrator, performer, composer, or anything else that has to do with making money. Yet, when people decide to start writing, they soon turn toward the question of becoming a professional one way or the other.

If this is your number one goal, you might be putting the cart before the horse.

I might speculate that with traditional writing and diary keeping being less of a fad these days than they were in our parents’ and grandparents’ and great grandparents’ eras, people don’t generally perceive writing as a form of recreation. While painting and guitar playing are a form of communication, people als0 see them as relaxing ways to play. Somehow, writing as relaxation falls away in people’s minds. They see it as communication. And not long afterwards, a way of making money whether they have a monetized blog, write freelance articles, or turn to fiction.

Hogan thinks aspiring writers will be happier if they are less frantic about making money and more interested in deciding why they are writing. He suggests discovering your passions (and possibly yourself) and developing those as something you wish to share with others. Is all this fulfilling? If so, then perhaps it leads to something that makes money at some point. If a writer begins that way and ultimately becomes a professional, s/he might be better off in the long run–and happier on his/her way to wherever that passion might lead.

An article in The Guardian “Writing at risk of becoming an ‘elitist’ profession, report warns” notes that working writers’ incomes are continuing to fall making it more necessary for professionals to be subsidized. The subsidy usually comes through the writer’s primary job and/or from the money brought into the household by a spouse or other partner. One point of the article is that people with lower paying jobs won’t have enough money to subsidize the kind of writing schedule required to a professional author.

The falling income part of the equation might make writers focusing first on profits and salability to be frustrated and frenzied than those who begin by developing and sharing passions before becoming overly concerned about writing income.

Hogan makes a good point when he suggests that getting a book deal shouldn’t be the first thing on an aspiring writer’s TO DO list.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s novels include The Sun Singer and Conjure Woman’s Cat.