“Because writing with money as your goal would be, as Lena Dunham says, "a weird plan"… If, someday, I get a multimillion dollar book deal, I would probably drop dead from excitement, but I’m not holding my breath. Instead, I am just doing what I do, because it’s what I love. So, in that sense, Dunham is completely on point. Don’t write because making money is your plan. Do it because you’re a masochist. You won’t be disappointed.”
- “Lena Dunham Thinks Writing For Money Is “Weird” And She’s Right" by Kristin Iversen For Brooklyn Mag.
I don’t want to be disrespectful of someone else’s passion for their art, but if you’re snooty enough for one second to only do things for “the love” then I’m afraid I’m going to have to unplug you from the Matrix and introduce you to the machines.
As Kristin points out, Lena Dunham is an incredibly privileged position. So let’s not listen to her advice on this. It’s great for Lena that she can eschew money because she has it, and she always has, but that’s just not going to work for the vast majority of us.
Most of us don’t have rich, famous parents backing us. Most of us are chasing our dreams on a pretty tight budget that sometimes involves eating lentil soup 3 meals a day for a whole week (I’ve done this). And that, being an unfortunate truth, is why money does matter.
There are also many other variables aside from the need to eat and pay rent: maybe your passion is for writing but your writing is terrible or maybe your writing is brilliant but you have no profile or connections so it never gets read. Or I don’t know, maybe all you want is to be really fuckin’ rich like your idol Lena Dunham. Out of everyone who loves writing and wants to write forever, not everyone is going to have anything fruitful come of it. I am helplessly aware that I may never see any of my dreams for my writing materialize, so I’m not willing to bank next month’s rent on it.
So I’m saying, while you wait for your dreams to play out, write for the money if you have to. It’s totally chill. I’m an Editor at a digital publication, and while it’s not my undying passion, it keeps my mind active and my belly full. I’m dealing in words and grammar and spelling and other writers every day, and I’m learning technical skills that are just as valuable as the brain vomit that is my personal archive.
I still come home and write as a labor of love until I can barely keep my eyelids open and I still keep artistic integrity in my personal work. I don’t write my personal works for money or glory (how can I, when most have never been read by anyone but myself?), so I understand this way of thinking, but that doesn’t mean I’d ever be so foolish as to pronounce myself as “above” the money, or anyone who works hard for money.
Each and every one of us needs to do what we’ve got to do to make it work (last time I checked being a copywriter for an agency can be pretty damn lucrative), and advising writers against following the cash cow is as reductive as the kind of attitude that advice is railing against. Write for love, but write for money too, if you have to (or damn it, even if you want to!); staying fed is not an ignoble pursuit.