For Love, Romance or Money? An Author's Life

Last week, I wrote about an interview with author James Patterson (Inside the Mind of a Writer). Reader Jaxpop commented that he'd read about that interview on other blogs which I completely expected. However, what I didn't expect was his comment that on those other blogs authors expressed disapproval and dismay over Patterson's work style. Simply put, he collaborates with others; he does not churn out his sought after pages on his own.

Apparently, some of those other authors were upset because Patterson's method didn't fit their vision of how a "real" author is supposed to work. I'll be right up front and say I agree with the rest of Jaxpop's comments, those basically being "and the problem is where?" As I thought about that, I was struck by how the idea of what an author's life is supposed to be has changed...or has it?

Based on the idea that some writers are upset with Patterson's model and some are not, there are clearly at least two visions of the "author life" alive and well in 2009. First, those who are upset still obviously hold to the romance of it all. They dream of writers gazing at nature as they wrote, or those that poured out the angst of life alone with their thoughts for hours on end. While the rest of the world labored on farms and in factories with barely more than an elementary level education, authors were held in high esteem because their higher learning and ability to mold language into works most people believed they could never achieve. To write a book was a unique accomplishment and uncrowded bookshelves were proof. Some authors made a living, others didn't but they wrote anyway for the love of the art.

Now fast forward 100+ years and author's life version 2. Most people graduate from high school and a large percentage of those go on to college and beyond. A huge part of the population now has the educational skills to write a book if they so choose. If they don't write a book, they can still write columns, essays, short stories, papers and reports. If they do go the book route and get one out, it will join the 200,000 or more that are now published each year. If they want to make a living, they need to be business people, marketers and writers, often all in the same day. They need to understand much more than how to weave words even if they're lucky enough to have an agent or publisher. Writing a book is still a respected accomplishment, but it's no where near as unique a feat as it once was. To actually make a stable living as an author now is to write, at least partially, for your publisher, for your market, for the money.

So where does put us as authors? Is one vision better, right, wrong? I truly hope not. This is just another example of how as authors we need to stick together and support each other's choices (as long as they aren't harming anyone). Want to be romantic and have deep literary discussions over tea? Go ahead. Want to crunch numbers, budget your time and sublet your muse? That's fine too. It has to be, otherwise no one has a dream.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett

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