The Big Writing Lie

Posted On Sep 15 2014 by
Courtesy Flicker Creative Commons and Ritesh Nayak.
Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons and Ritesh Nayak.

I took a creative writing class about a dozen years ago. One of those Parks & Rec night classes at a local high school. Right after introductions to about twenty eager faces, the instructor announced that “you cannot make money doing this.”

Stunned, we were.

I mean, yeah, we love to write, but a little something for our efforts would be nice, too. Obviously, guys like Stephen King and Clive Cussler have simply bucked the trend. Perhaps they were unfairly advantaged. Born with a silver Strunk & White in their chubby little hands.

You know what? You can’t make money in any business. It’s a fact. No matter what you majored in in college, you’ll be dirt poor. Unless, of course, you work hard. But ain’t nobody got time for that, right?

Wrong-o. Those of you who know me also know that I’m a strict conservative. No handouts. The best motivator in the world is starvation. Let that, my friends, be your motivation.

Even if you are independently wealthy and never flipped houses, pretend that your very survival depends on these-words-you-are-typing-right-now. Crap. There’s a buck twenty-five I’ll never get back.

But I’m only serious. What if you needed to sell your books if you wanted food, shelter, Apple TV?

Know what I think? Here’s my conspiracy theory of the week. No, not the one with the NSA cameras imbedded in my cat’s left eye, that was last week (though, really, that eye NEVER moves with the other one…just sayin’). This week’s conspiracy theory is that some individuals, not all, but some have perpetuated this myth of writer poverty because that–say it with me, class–


If you’ve constantly been bombarded with “You write because you love to, not because you want to make money,” then that’s what you’ll do. You have to disconnect your brain, mind you, and forget that Henry Ford probably LOVED to build cars and also made money.

Wait…what? I can do BOTH?

That’s right, bachelorette number three, you can have dinner and your dignity. Or, in our case, days on end of telling lies and getting paid for it! And you never even had to run for office.

Here’s the little truth to counter the Big Lie: if you are passionate about something and work hard, you will make money.

For you math types: P + HW = $$$

I suspect it’s the HW that gets most of us. The funny thing about hard work is, you’re never done with it. And you never know if your hard work is ever going to pay off. Old Henry lost his investment over and over again. Ford Motor Company was his tenth attempt, if I remember correctly. What if he’d given up after nine? Yes, I know, fewer cars on the shoulder. Haha.

But think about it. Do you believe you’ll be a successful, full-time writer if you simply keep going? Writing every day. Learning. Getting better.

You don’t fail. You just quit.

I’ve said it a million times on this blog (remember, paid liar), I would rather waste three hours a night trying to get this right than lay on my death bed and regret never having tried.

But I believe I will be successful. And I believe Gina will be, too. And so will everyone who is passionate and working hard and loving every minute of it.

So forget the lie. That creative writing instructor is probably drowning his sorrows in a bottle of Barefoot Pinot Noir and watching Lifetime. Me, I’ll finish this and get back to work. Yeah, it’s Sunday. The Normals are watching football or whatever. Know what I love much more than football? Making stories. And maybe, just maybe mind you, I can do what I love and get paid to do it.

Care to join me?


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Last Updated on: September 14th, 2014 at 8:27 pm, by Ron

Written by Ron

Just about everything I believe has been shaped by the written word. But books don't force a belief; they stir the imagination so that you, the reader, eventually draw your own conclusions. We grow richer in spirit when we read, deeper in our understanding of the universe and our role in it. That's why I read. That's why I write. To offer you a bit of myself. Come along on my journey, won't you? There's plenty of room.

4 responses to “The Big Writing Lie

  1. Good post, Ron. The elementary school not far from me had a sign up for almost a year that said, “If you believe, you can achieve.” Drove me nuts. Curious as to your opinion on whether anyone can write as long as they put in the work (including actually learning how to write!)?

    • I think writing can be learned, Tom. Now, an active imagination is another thing. But I can’t imagine (pun intended) anyone without an active imagination wanting to write. The imigination, I think, would be the driving force. If you have that, then yes, I think anyone can learn how to write a good story.

  2. Great post. Of course the HW part is what gets most of us. But that’s why most people don’t make a living as writers. As Randy Pausch said in The Last Lecture ( ), the walls are there to show you how badly you want it. Sam Walton was another failure. He failed multiple times before founding WalMart. And Thomas Edison. Of course, it’s a whole lot easier now that there’s the self-publishing option. No more waiting for years to get noticed by an agent or more years waiting for a sale to a publisher. That doesn’t mean there aren’t years learning to write before you publish. It just means there are no UNNECESSARY years.

    • Exactly, Elise. The nice thing about self-publishing is that we’re judged by our writing alone, not by the whims of the industry. How many of us have written the first book in a series, then waited years to decide if we should bother with the second? Now we know right away whether or not it’s worth pursuing.