Story Worms: For Love or Money


We all write for different reasons. Some of us feel compelled to write, some of us need to exorcise noisy characters from our head, some of us want to share our world view, to teach people, or just to entertain. We write to escape reality, to understand reality, to understand ourselves. We write to forget our problems, or to explore them, to solve them. We write because we want to experience life as someone else.

If you write for fame and fortune, you’ve probably chosen the wrong profession.

In February this year I signed my first contract for my first paid story. It was a big leap in my writing career. Officially, it moved me from the realm of ‘hobbyist writer’ to that of ‘professional writer’. I’m not going to be making mega-money, or even midi-money, but officially I’m a professional writer now. Exciting stuff.

I’ve heard a lot of freelance writers out there saying “never write for free”. I’ve even known some to look down their noses at writers who write only for exposure. But we all have to start somewhere, and in the writing world, that somewhere is often unpaid. Besides, as I see it; exposure is payment. Is having your name out there more important than having a load of money in your bank account? When you’re starting out, as long as writing isn’t how you pay the bills, then yes.

But I must admit, since getting my first paid story, followed by a number of other paid stories, my focus has shifted. While I still believe exposure is important, I will opt for a paid publication opportunity over a free one. Most of the time.

I love to write. I’ve written stories since I was old enough to hold a pen, and it’s one of the fundamental things that makes me the person I am. And my love of the craft is more important to me than the money. Chasing the next good idea, getting to know new characters, exploring new worlds.

I’m writing my current story for a call for submissions that offers no payment, and little prestige. But the concept, the theme of the anthology grabbed me the moment I read it. My head went giddy with ideas, the characters jumped forward demanding to be heard. And this story excites me. I love it. I love the characters. I love the setting. I love all of it.

This story may not further my career, it may not make me famous or win me awards. It won’t make me rich. But what it does do is to reignite my love affair with writing. When you’re wrapped up in hitting deadlines, and writing to word counts, it can start to feel a bit like a chore. I’ve known writers that, when they gave up their day job to write full time, when they needed to earn enough to pay the rent, their passion drained.

This story is for the love of it, and it feels so freeing. There’s no ulterior motive, nothing to steal my focus from the story itself. It almost feels more pure when no money is changing hands.

When it comes down to it, only you know why you write. Only you know what motivates and moves you. Don’t let people tell you any different. Don’t let people tell you you’re a lesser writer because of the choices you make. You write at your best when what you write excites you. Follow your heart and write what you love.

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