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Should I write only for money?

Last week, I participated for the first time in #writechat on Twitter.  #writechat was created by Julie Isaac (a.k.a., @WritingSpirit – Follow her!), and it’s a weekly event every Sunday afternoon from 12-3PM PST.

For all you writers out there, this was a valuable use of a Sunday afternoon.  You can dispense advice or ask questions from dozens of writers from a wide range of experiences.  You should go.

One of the topics that came up last week was whether someone should write only for money.  One participant indicated that she always writes with the intention of getting paid.  There’s a lot of financial sense in that: why would you spend your time working on non-productive tasks?

While I applaud the concept, there are some other reasons to write with no expectation of money:

  • A story for a family member or friend – They, particularly children, love having a story crafted just for them
  • A letter for a loved one – There’s still no beating the rush of receiving a personal letter in the mail
  • To try out a new style – When you’re just trying out a different writing style, there’s often no market to sell to
  • To expand your horizons – When you’re trying to make sense of a new technology, experience, or person, sometimes writing it out will bring clarity
  • To preserve something for posterity – A journal can be an invaluable asset for your surviving family members when you go
  • To help build a relationship – Sometimes a letter is just the right thing to help you get that new client or learn more about a family member’s past

In some cases, you may still be able to sell your writing.  However, for the most part, I think this is unlikely.  However, you’re still investing in your own skill and helping others you know, so there’s a lot of non-monetary reward.

Does lack of a financial reward lessen your drive?

When there’s a purpose, I think we’re driven to write better.  Sometimes non-monetary rewards are those that will help drive our for-profit writing to even higher levels.

What do you think?  Should a writer only write for-profit?  What other places might a writer’s efforts be spent on that are more valuable than money?

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