Oscar Wilde attributes his success to not relying on writing for his income, the Telegraph revealed.
His 13 page letter replied to an aspiring writer, a Mr Morgan, asking for tips for success. It is estimated to be written around 1890, as Wilde was becoming one of London’s most popular playwrights.
Wilde told him not to rely on earning his living from writing:
“The best work in literature is always done by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread and the highest form of literature, Poetry, brings no wealth to the singer.”
“Make some sacrifice for your art and you will be repaid but ask of art to sacrifice herself for you and a bitter disappointment may come to you.”
The letter was found, with the first draft of his famous sonnet The New Remorse, in a dusty box at the back of a wardrobe in the home of a Victorian brewer who collected autographed letters and manuscripts. When he died last November they were passed down to his granddaughter, who called experts to clear the estate in Shippon, near Abingdon, Oxon.
Now, I agree with the idea of compromising your style and selling your soul for commercial reasons.
If you are pursuing your art with all your time and effort (with added hunger pangs) it would make you a) likely the best you could be, by the sheer amount of hard work you put in, and b) more people will read, and connect, from the fact you’re putting more out there and promoting it, and yourself, more seriously, and you’re just living and breathing it more. And, ideally, listening to readers and talking to writers more. More than, say, if you delegate writing to when you’re too knackered.
Also, writing for commercial reasons means you are using your skills for a purpose, even better if they do good (writing a charity campaign, marketing a great product, or selling good newspapers) in addition to doing whatever art you want to do for its own sake. And that art will be improved and informed by the commercial day job.
I’m not saying art takes precedence over jobs; I’m saying build your career on writing skills if you have ’em, because the world needs them too!
Instead of making writing a desperate, escapist distraction from real life (there are plenty of other, better ones, to chose from – like whiskey) make writing your real life.
What do you think?