It’s true: there are immoral and ignoble ways to make money. (Like manufacturing candy corn or making pizzas with pineapple on them.) And those vocations are vile. But setting aside the obviously immoral, and presuming that you don’t worship money or wealth, making money in and of itself is not immoral.
Working to make money is a moral good.
In order to earn money morally, you have to work for it. You have to exert yourself, develop your talents, skills, and interests, and learn to provide a service others find valuable. Hard work teaches one patience, diligence, and responsibility. Success increases your self-confidence. Hard work makes you a better person. And you must work hard to earn money morally.
The point of a job or profession—the reason it exists—is to make money. You work hard and earn money. That’s what “job” means.
You may have other values or goals alongside it, goals noble or base—”I love teaching kids!” “The human body is so fascinating to me!” “Dude, guitarists get all the chicks!”—but the chief and driving reason jobs exist is to make money. If you’re not making money at your job, you and your kids are either starving or subsisting on charity. Necessary as this may be sometimes (and sometimes it is), living on the sufferance of others is not empowering. It can teach you humility, gratitude, and empathy for the unfortunate, but success is always preferable to subsistence, and the point of a profession is to succeed and make money.
Work hard. Make money. Feed your kids. Have enough money to give to charity. For you to do good in this world, you must first earn the world’s coin—starving people find it hard to give back.
The point of a profession is to make money. The point of WRITING FICTION as a profession is to produce books that sell, so you can make money. In order to sell, you must write books that appeal to the audience.
You must write marketable books. You must write appealing books. You must write entertaining books. You must write books that the audience loves to read and wants to buy. When writing as a profession, you are writing for the audience, not yourself.
A mechanic has to fix your car, or he’s useless. A plumber has to fix your leaky pipes, or he’s useless. And a professional fiction writer has to entertain his audience, or he’s useless. And useless people don’t get paid. (Unless they’re in government.)
You know who’s useless? Polemicists who produce smug, condescending philippics disguised as (shoddy and substandard) adventure fiction. Useless, the lot of them. Who else? Smug, self-satisfied artistes who “only write for myself” and who produce dreary little boring books that nobody reads, but which lots of people like to say they’ve read. Useless.
And liars. Liars are useless.
Liars who say they write superhero comics, but really write talky books filled with people sitting around tables eating food and talking about eating food. Liars who say they’re writing fantasy, and churn out grim little tales full of rapine and slaughter, utterly bereft of anything resembling the fantastic or heroic. Liars who write adventure stories with no adventure in them, with no heroes in them, with no bravery, no boldness, no excitement, no romance, no wondrous new worlds filled with marvels, nothing to thrill the audience, inspire the audience, or touch the audience.
Liars are useless. They’re cheats. They’re THIEVES. They take your money and give nothing of value in return. They can chatter all they like about “muh artistic integrity”, but it’s just a con man’s patter, designed to disguise the fact that they just stole your money.
The truest form of artistic integrity is working your butt off to provide the audience what you promised. Superheroes in cape comics, visceral battle scenes in MilSF, fantastic moments of wonder in Fantasy.
Give the audience what you promised, give them what they paid for, and you have done something noble and moral. You are a professional writer, and not a miscreant liar.
Last, suffering. Life is awful. It truly is. Not all the time, and not for everyone at the same time, but we will all know loneliness, we will all know hardship, and we will all know sorrow.
Suffering grinds you down. It is painful, yes, but it is also wearying. It is a constant burden that leaches away the joy in life, and turns life into an unending slog: day after day after day of heartache and pain. It is a state to be pitied.
Writers—all entertainers, really—can throw a lifeline to those who are suffering. When in the depths of never-ending pain, a small moment of joy can give you the strength to last just one more day. A brief moment in time where you can lay down your burdens, where you can cease your ceaseless worrying, where you can forget, just for this small span of time, all your troubles—these moments are beyond price. And I tell you truly and honestly, and I want you to engrave this on your hearts:
Entertainment can lift another’s burdens, can give them peace from suffering, can give them the strength to go on. It can bring light to a dark, dark day. It can make people laugh. It can ease their loneliness. It can ease their pains.
This is real, and it is IMPORTANT. When you write a book that is “merely” entertaining, you are helping lighten the burdens of the downtrodden, the grief-stricken, and the chronically ill.
On the worst day of their life, a good book can be someone’s best friend. And you can write that book.
So write well. Craft your work with all the skill and talent you can muster. Labor with all your might to entertain your audience. Be a professional, write good books, and GET PAID.
Making money is not an immoral endeavor, and crafting books that touch, that thrill, and that entertain is a nobler calling than most give it credit for. In truth, it is among the noblest.
Go and be a noble writer. Entertain your audience. Lift their burdens. Write good books, and GET PAID.
Because making money isn’t immoral and spreading joy is intrinsically noble.