Some great notes about writing for a living vs. living for writing:
For me personally, I would rather extricate my personal need for income (and by proxy shelter, food, clothing, etc.) from my writing. Being able to do nothing but write doesn’t mean a damn thing if I don’t wholly believe in what it is I’m producing.
I've felt the same way for some time myself, and here's why.
I already write for a living — I just don't write fiction for a living. For years now I've been lucky enough to have a day job where I can write, and then at the end of the day I can turn to my other pursuits and work on those.
Some people feel they can't switch between those modes; they feel that writing for a living that's not actually their craft drains them dry. I can't argue with that, everyone being different, although I'll say there are at least as many examples against that as there are for it. Yukio Mishima put out a great many potboilers in his time — one of the reasons most Western readers of his work are not aware of this is because almost none of that material has ever been translated or sold outside of Japan — but paced himself well enough to also work hard on the plays, novels, and essays that he felt were most directly reflective of his concerns. (That his concerns grew all the more insular and reactionary over time is another story.)
The main reason I haven't made fiction my livelihood is because I've taken a good hard look at what it would take to do that, and concluded that the kind of fiction I'd need to produce to live on is not something I want to spend most of my time doing. Most successful authors of popular fiction produce a kind of story I can admire for its craft, but that's about all. I enjoy reading such material from time to time, but I wouldn't enjoy producing it.
Now, I could produce things in that vein, but there are already plenty of people doing that, and most likely doing it far better and with more tenacity and unpretentious dedication than I could ever muster, so why not let them do their job? That way, I free myself up to produce the kind of work that I know only I can produce anyway. Someone else once said that you sing with the voice god gave you, and while I don't believe in god I certainly believe in that sentiment. The voice I'm singing with is not the one that rockets to the top of the charts, because I feel I would be uncomfortable with what I would have to do to get there.
I'm trying hard not to make this into an argument against writing for the sake of making a living. If I did that, I'd be in a terribly hypocritical position, and I'd just be tilting at a windmill that all too many others have broken their lances on anyway. I'm saying that if someone doesn't want to get on that particular treadmill, let's not assume it's because they aren't talented or have nothing to give. It might be because they don't want to be forced to take what they have to say and sell it to the highest bidder. Does that mean they take themselves too seriously, or that we don't take them seriously enough?
Some people write to get rich. Good luck to them, because it's a lousy way to get rich. Anyone who can play that game successfully deserves whatever they reap. Just don't assume those of us who never threw money down on that particular craps table are losers.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind