“No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” (reported by Boswell, in his Life of Johnson)
Attributed to Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the renowned author and lexicographer, that’s one of the most famous writerly aphorisms in the English language.
Others have seen things differently.
“There are above all two kinds of writer: those who write for the sake of what they have to say and those who write for the sake of writing. The former have had ideas or experiences which seem to them worth communicating; the latter need money and that is why they write—for money. They think for the purpose of writing. You can recognize them by the fact that they spin out their ideas to the greatest possible extent, that their ideas are half-true, obscure, forced and vacillating, and that they usually prefer the twilight so as to appear what they are not, which is why their writings lack definiteness and clarity. You can soon see they are writing simply in order to cover paper: and as soon as you do see it you should throw the book down, for time is precious. – Payment and reserved copyright are at bottom the ruin of literature. Only he who writes entirely for the sake of what he has to say writes anything worth writing. It is as if there were a curse on money: every writer writes badly as soon as he starts writing for gain. The greatest works of the greatest men all belong to a time when they had to write them for nothing or for very small payment: so that here too the Spanish proverb holds good: Honra y provecho no caben en un saco [Honour and money don’t belong in the same purse].” (Essays and Aphorisms, my highlight )
And whatever Johnson had to say about it, he himself wrote compulsively, prodigiously, and surely wouldn’t have done it only for the money. Nevertheless, in closing, we can give him the last word. When Sir John Hawkins suggested to Johnson that the very editing of Shakespeare had to be a satisfaction in itself, Johnson replied, “I look upon this as I did upon the Dictionary: it is all work, and my inducement to it is not love or desire of fame, but the want of money, which is the only motive to writing that I know of.” (Sir John Hawkins, The Life of Samuel Johnson)
Anyway, now Jack can relax and settle down to writing whatever it takes, and forget about the novel. Maybe.
For my part, I’ll just carry on writing, come what may, buyers or no buyers, readers or no readers. Maybe I’m a moron.
“Another damned thick book! Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh, Mr. Gibbon?”
Attributed to Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, 1781, upon receiving the second (or third, or possibly both) volume(s) of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire from the author. quoted by Sir Leslie Stephen in the Dictionary of National Biography, (1921), vol. 21, p. 1133. (Wikiquote)