Putting a value on words

Published by GrahamLewis in the blog Reflections on My Golden River. Views: 64

This is probably a more personal entry than most. I am really torn about how much value writing has for its own sake. Here's why I wonder. All my life I have been told what a wonderful writer I am, by all sorts of people and, in fact, it seems to have been borne out by most things I have written, from law briefs to correspondence to small little imageries I call "vignettes" to website posts. I wrote for awhile for a small newspaper and got lots of commendable comments. There's some value, boosts to my self-esteem.

And writing is the one time that I can get outside myself. When I'm really in the writing, I am really in the flow, whether it be first draft, rewrites, or rewriting rewrites. I feel alive and empowered. There's more value.

But I have never earned money in the capacity as a pure writer. I'm retired from my work now, but in a relationship where I need to justify my writing, and it keeps getting examined in a financial sense. How does one work out that balance? If I never get published? I remember reading somewhere that men become writers because of (1) money, (2) fame, and (3) women. And I know that at least one famous author has said something to the effect that "anyone who writes for other than money is a fool." He had fame too, but was silent about women.

I suppose in a way it goes back to the old "art for art's sake" argument. Which makes me think the answer is that being creative has value extraneous to the commercial and day-to-day world. Van Gogh created masterpieces that were not really appreciated during his lifetime. And he died of suicide, a pauper. There's no way of knowing the effect his act of painting had on him, but I at least am convinced that work alone is what kept him going as long as he did.

So that throws me back at the beginning. If I write and am never successfully published, have I made meaningful contributions to anything? Meaningful, I mean, to anyone beyond myself. That briefly touching the hearts or minds of close family and friends has value, even though it doesn't feed the bulldog.

I only hope the answer is "yes" and that there is a broader universe in which the act of being creative has value in itself. If I answer yes, does that make it true?
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