Why do you write?

WEDNESDAY 13 JULY 2016

A reader on BrandSmit.NET recently commented on the Afrikaans version of the piece “Poor writer or wealthy entrepreneur” from March 2016. The following was my response.

Every writer needs to make up their own mind about what kind of writing they’d like to do. Do they want to make money with their writing? Do they want to educate? Or do they simply want to serve a good cause?

If you do want to make money with your writing, you need to identify a market and then write what those people want to read, and what they are willing to pay for. Same with anything you want to sell to make money. If you have oranges you’d like to sell, you’d better go where people want to buy oranges; otherwise you would have to find out what people are looking for in the location where you are, and then try to find ways to deliver those products to them at a price that leaves room for profit.

For me, my writing is in the first place free expression of my life experience, so I have to make sure I earn an income in other ways. If I make my writing available in printed book form, I accept that money will be part of the story. Okay, then I make a few bucks. But I would rather sell oranges every weekend outside a rugby stadium to make money than to change how or what I write in order for more people to like what I have written so I can get paid for it.

I am thus rather a part-time entrepreneur to bring in money and the rest of the time I write what I want, than a full-time writer but I have to write what is dictated by the market. If other writers want to do that, good for them – everyone has to eat and pay rent. There have also always been the lucky ones who write what they want to write, in the way they want to write it, and before they know what’s going on people are falling over their feet to lay their hands on a copy of their work.

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