Thursday, May 17, 2012

Creative Success and Financial Success: Very Fickle Friends

For a writer, creative success and financial success are very fickle friends.

Many well-known writers didn't make enough of a living while they were alive, including one of my heroes (gulp, bad sign), Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan. Now, he would be a millionaire. He died very poor at the end of the 1930's. Then there's Edgar Rice Burroughs at the other end of the spectrum, who was incredibly rich. Some talented writers, especially ones that are "ahead of their time," never make a decent living or are recognized for their gift. Most never become very wealthy. This is a bitter truth of life (or our culture). You have to decide what's more important: being creatively successful and actually contributing something valuable to the body of literary work, or, being financially successful with it. They often don't go together. Some who are vastly talented are not rewarded financially, and many who are rewarded financially are not vastly talented.

Being a fan of authors like Leiber and Howard (also Bradbury, who has been lucky enough to be recognized for his work, and Philip K. Dick, who was partially recognized, but again, would be a millionaire now), I've come to accept that even if I write at their level, and I hope I will be there in the next couple of years (I believe I have the talent), I may never see the proper financial reward. I'm here for a purpose and it's not to make money or be famous. Those things might be nice. Maybe they wouldn't. A decent living is my only desire in that area. Beyond a certain income point (about $40-$50K/year according to studies), happiness does not increase.

My joy and meaning in life come from the work, getting up each day and being able to write. My joy comes from following in the footsteps of great writers that made my life and the lives of millions of others, deeper, richer and more joyful. When I'm on my deathbed, that will give me peace. All the money in the world, without that, will not.

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