Sunday, July 22, 2012

Do Writers Write Better if They Get Paid?

Why do writers write?

Is "better" writing (whatever that means) the result of the application of the artistic temperament, unsullied by monetary incentives?

Or do the best writers write to make money?  Interesting piece from NYR-blog, with some speculations. 

Reminds me of this famous encomium, to David Hume:

There is no instance of a man of genius who has wasted less in idleness or in unavailing pursuits. Money was not his object, nor was temporary fame; though, of the means of independent livelihood, and a good repute among men, he never lost sight: but his ruling ambition, pursued in poverty and riches, in health and sickness, in laborious obscurity and amidst the blaze of fame, was to establish a permanent name, resting on the foundation of literary achievements, likely to live as long as human thought endured, and mental philosophy was studied.-- J.H. Burton, Life and Correspondence of David HUME, Vol. 1, p 18.

Maybe. But Hume was famously disappointed when his Concerning the Principles of Morals "fell dead-born from the press."

So, do writers write for money? Are the best books written for money, or something else? And does offering money spoil that artistic enterprise? In effect, do incentives distort art, and is the distortion worst when the artist is very poor and has a terrible BATNA?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?