Saturday, January 27, 2007


am.a.teur, n. A person who does something because he enjoys it, rather than for money.

Recently, I went through a period of introspection that led to a major reorganizing and re-prioritizing of my life. Several of my friends and some family members seem to be going through the same thing--in real life, and online. Maybe it's the new year's time of contemplation and goal setting, or maybe it's just age--seems like those I know who have been going through it are of "a certain age" (40's through 50's) or else are rapidly approaching that age group. I've watched a dear friend struggle with depression for several months because she's almost 40, never been married, and is afraid she's run out of time to have a family of her own. She's a beautiful, intelligent, well-educated, well-travelled woman whom I admire, and has been successful in her career, yet she's questioning what she's been doing with her life.

Whatever their reasons for it, a number of people around me seem to be asking the same question I asked myself: is what I've been doing worth it?

Stewart also posted about this feeling lately, and I must apologize to him if my comment was condescending. Who am I to say what he should be doing with his time? Only he knows that. Of course, I'd hate like crazy if he gave up writing because he's so darned talented and I love reading his work, but that's the crux of it. Is talent enough reason to keep doing something if your other values in life indicate you should go elsewhere? What about disappointing others?

My brother is a very talented artist and I badger him from time to time about not doing more with it. Why is he wasting his gift, I wonder? His answer: he does it only up to the point when it stops being fun and starts to feel like work. He is truly an amateur--he does it for the enjoyment, and once in a while gives the world the gift of his talent. Does he really owe it to anyone to do more? I'd like to say yes, but that's selfish. It's a loss for me, but not for him--when he creates when he enjoys it, but he's also got his own priorities and I can't argue with that.

People also tell me to do more with my own artwork and writing, but I don't take the time--other things have to come first right now. I don't think that makes me less of an artist--it currently makes me more of a mother. It also doesn't make me a professional, but I'm still an amateur and I see nothing wrong with that.

So what about you? If you never made a(nother) dime on your writing, would you still write?


Susan Miller said...

Wow, I just pulled the Stephen King "On Writing" book off the shelf and a passage caught me.

"Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy."

Yeah, has to be easier to write this when you're getting a large check in your mailbox every morning, but I believe that he's right.

I've never made a dime on it, and I can't imagine not doing it.

My baby brother is obviously your brother. He called the other night to tell me he will be painting his first post marriage picture for me as a birthday present. He hasn't painted in a couple of years so I consider it a precious gift.

SQT said...

I used to draw like crazy. I haven't in years, but my daughter now appears to have caught the bug.

I've moved on to writing. It comes more naturally to me and I think I can express myself naturally through words than pictures. I will probably always write to some extent even if I never get a word published. It's part of who I am and in the end I don't do it for anyone else but me.

-- That said--

I'd love to get published too. I'd love to have others read my words and connect with them and think me too. Why I want this I don't know. Maybe it's a way of feeling connected. I think that's why I like blogging so much. Because of my blog I know there are other people out there like me and it's comforting somehow.

Stewart Sternberg said...

You know, looking at the quote by Stephen King, given to us by susan miller, let me say in response: "Really? But then again, you're Stephen King. Lemme see you donate your future profits to charity and write for love, Mr. King, then we'll talk."

I will write because that is what I do. It is part of my identity. I must confess to being a little bitter about that lately, but then what's a person to do.

Kate, you and I will write, and write. We'll hold our breaths. We'll ride that demon and let it taunt us as it has.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think I answered your question for myself this evening. I've been writing for close to three hours with no expectation that I'll make a penny off of it. Mostly, though, I've been having fun, and for those few hours everything else shifted away from my awareness and I was lost in just the creative act. What a rush! ;)

Kate S said...

SUSAN - frustrating, isn't it, when you want something from someone and they don't deliver? :)Even when that "someone" is, on occasion, ourselves.

SQT - yes, it is comforting to know there are others out there experiencing the same things. I think that's why I enjoy blogs so much. Nice to know we're not alone.

STEWART - you cynic wannabe. :) Speaking of riding the demon, how's that dragon romance coming along?

CHARLES - glad to know you're still at it and having fun. :)
I hope you'll share some of what those three hours produced.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Kate, I am afraid I don't see myself finishing by deadline, but here's the really bad news: I think it's gonna be a novel that I had not planned on writing. Taking a short story I wrote, and opening it up, I suddenly found myself immersed in the idea. I will continue working on the outline for another four days before making up my mind.

Kate S said...

Believe me, Stewart, I understand! I just sent you a draft of the first chapter of one I was working on, and I'm having to change so much of it from the story that keeps going in my head just to make it fit the 20-30K word requirement. I may abandon it altogether, or turn it into a longer piece. Just don't know yet.

If you're that immersed in the idea, though, and enjoying it, go for it! :)

Avery said...

Being unpaid and wholly on the dole from my spouse, it's easy for me to say that I'd keep writing even if I never made a dime. It's really not too hard to maintain the established status quo, is it? However, as Susan and Stewart pointed out, I'd probably be a little less enthusiastic about giving up the checks once I started receiving them.

So, if I once got paid for writing novels and then the cash cow upped and died? Maybe I'd just go back to scribbling in journals and hording never-to-be-developed ideas in countless files. I'd like to think I'd keep going out of sheer love of the craft, but that would just be wishful speculation. I never know what I'm going to do until after I've done it.

Kate S said...

Interesting point of view, Avery.

spyscribbler said...

I don't know. I honestly don't think so. Of course, I say that, but I'm addicted. I feel badly when I don't write.

Worst case scenario, I'd open my own erotica site and MAKE SURE I still made money.

So ... moot point, I think.

Kate S said...

Open your own site--there ya go, Spy! I like the way you think. :)

cs harris said...

Here's the flip side to this: I make my living by writing genre fiction, and I sometimes fantasize about what it would be like simply to write for my own pleasure, to write what I want to write without worrying about what is popular, about what turns readers off, about whether my editor will let me do that, etc. The more my writing has become my "business," the less pleasure I reap from it. Perhaps when you're as popular as Stephen King, you come out on the other side of this.

Kate S said...

Thanks for the peek at the other side, C.S. I can see how that would be a problem.

Here's hoping you sell more than Stephen King and you can write whatever the heck you want. :)

Steve said...

I think there's an obligation to the work to see how far it can go (will it sell? how much? any way to do more?), but there's an obligation to the soul to simply do it for the love.

Its a weird paradox, and a balancing act. I'm a long way from worrying about the business side affecting my writing, but it took me a good ten years to get the mix right in my drawing.

It's still hard to say 'no' sometimes. Especially when there's money on the table for something I hate, and not a dime in sight for something important.

Kate S said...

Especially when there's money on the table for something I hate, and not a dime in sight for something important.

There's the rub, isn't it? That's sort of how I feel about my day job.