Welcome to BriteLites – Inspiration & Information for WordSmiths.
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.
– Robert Louis Stevenson
I have loved writing stories since I copied curlicues from a holiday table cloth. Years later, I understood that the reason my father sat me down and taught his three-year-old to write was because the pretty patterns spelled, “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays” and maybe even, “Jingle Bells.”
While writing has been a bit hit-and-miss for me as I’ve weighed whether a living could be made from the fancies that my imagination brews, two experiences influenced me:
First, an article published in – of all places – Industry Week Magazine, in which manufacturers were told that literature would improve personnel relations and productivity.
Second, bios that showed top selling authors who owned huge estates, professional sports teams, private airplanes and – in the spirit of Andrew Carnegie and the libraries he underwrote – financed little league baseball fields.
In reading this first in a series of excerpts from Robert Louis Stevenson’s essay, consider how finance affects your work.
Through this series that revisits 19th century authors, BriteLites invites discussion of topics that remain important to WordSmiths.
Excerpt 1 from Robert Louis Stevenson’s essay, “The Morality of The Profession of Letters,” first published in the Fortnightly Review, in 1881
The profession of letters has been lately debated in the public prints; and it has been debated, to put the matter mildly, from a point of view that was calculated to surprise high-minded men, and bring a general contempt on books and reading. Some time ago, in particular, a lively, pleasant, popular writer (Mr. James Payn) devoted an essay, lively and pleasant like himself, to a very encouraging view of the profession. We may be glad that his experience is so cheering, and we may hope that all others, who deserve it, shall be as handsomely rewarded; but do not think we need be at all glad to have this question, so important to the public and ourselves, debated solely on the ground of money.
The salary in any business under heaven is not the only, nor indeed the first, question. That you should continue to exist is a matter for your own consideration; but that your business should be first honest, and second useful, are points in which honour and morality are concerned. If the writer to whom I refer succeeds in persuading a number of young persons to adopt this way of life with an eye set singly on the livelihood, we must expect them in their works to follow profit only, and we must expect in consequence, if he will pardon me the epithets, a slovenly, base, untrue, and empty literature. Of that writer himself I am not speaking: he is diligent, clean, and pleasing; we all owe him periods of entertainment, and he has achieved an amiable popularity which he has adequately deserved.
But the truth I, he does not, or did not when he first embraced it, regard his profession from this purely mercenary side. He went into it, I shall venture to say, if not with any noble design, at least in the ardour of a first love; and he enjoyed its practice long before he paused to calculate the wage.
COMMENTS WELCOMED on $$ as first reason for writing.
Next week – R. L. Stevenson Part Two: Where do wages (royalties or advances) belong when, as Stevenson wrote, To treat all subjects in the highest, the most honourable, and the pluckiest spirit, consistent with the fact, is the first duty of the writer.
WORTH A LOOK
Steel – from rocks to stainless rims in 6 minutes.