I used to write for money. I kept a little purple book in which I hand-wrote all my invoices, as a backup for tax time in case the Internet broke down before then. In it, words dissolved, sank from view, and re-emerged as numbers at the ratio of 5:2 (ex. GST and ancillary expenses). Sleight-of-hand, but it felt magical at the time. My contemporaries, struggling with the (entirely unremunerated) weight of academic essays, looked upon me as a mildly horrifying demigod who remained perplexed by the magnitude of his powers. You heard it all the time, of course, but nobody really believed that by doing what you loved the money would follow. Yet somehow the words kept coming, and the numbers kept sidling into my bank account like malapropic thieves in the night. After a while, I started to dream in press releases. You heard it all the time, but nobody talked about what happened if you fell out of love.
I used to write for recognition. The first prize was a revelation that people apart from my parents (hi, Mum and Dad!) could think me talented too. I was no stranger to accolades, but these were different. My writing was not born of fortunate upbringing or ready-made opportunities, or so I convinced myself: I had built my craft, word by constipated word, and it had made me a self-made man. Stories gushed forward like lovelorn blatherings, seeking out blandishments with big sniffing noses and wagging snippet-tails; there were no prizes after the one. So I learned to feed my ego in other ways: through grade-point coups and the roll of digits in my monthly statements. The magazine I’m in talks with, more people submit stories than read them. I know that this hunger for recognition, mirrored a million plump young aesthetes too uncomfortably like myself, threatens to overturn the entire economy of human emotion, but how can I resist the urge to feed?
I used to write for love. I scattered letters, poems, tales of wanton dedication, like seeds that I hoped would take hold and grant me…what? Writing is the loneliest calling (except for biohazard disposal) but giving up that solitude is perilous beyond belief. When you’ve been the narrator so long, letting another voice tell your story is like stepping backwards off the edge of the world. I spun romances and courtly melodramas in my head, so sticky and dense that not even the most intrepid explorer would want to cut her way in. Then I wondered why I couldn’t get out.
Now, I try not to write for any of these reasons. More often than not, I still do.