You may recognise that my blog name is a paraphrasing of a Samuel Johnson quote – ‘No man but a blockhead ever wrote, but for money.’
I first came across this quote, probably when I was a teenager, in a ‘Thought for the Day’ section in a local paper. I accepted this as being correct, despite how easily it falls apart under scrutiny.
I’m not completely sure what connotations the word ‘blockhead’ will have held in the 18th century, but I think it’s fairly safe to assume it means foolish, stupid, and so on.
So basically, the intent of the quote is that it’s foolish to write, for any other reason than for money.
Whoever you are, you probably write for reasons that aren’t related to financial gain. This may be letters or emails to friends or family, for example, or a rant on facebook about the awfulness of a recent film.
And then there’s the creative satisfaction of telling stories, or blogging to discuss ideas on politics, sport, and a range of similar subjects.
I’ve read writers as varied as Christopher Hitchens and Isaac Asimov saying that writing is an essential part of who they are, with the former, while currently suffering from cancer, saying that he can’t imagine not writing everyday.
Sometimes thoughts on a subject don’t come together naturally by themselves, and it can be useful to sit down, with notes, bits of ideas, to rearrange, remove and expand on ideas.
In fact I think writing is something anyone can benefit from in that manner.
Despite the obvious foolishness of this statement, I accepted it – it’s a phrase that’s concise, pithy, and to an extent, beautiful.
This could be seen as using the power of writing for evil (and I’m just about pretentious and melodramatic enough to do that), but it’s a little sign of what writing can do. I’m thinking of things like The West Wing, bringing to life subjects that are pretty dry and abstract in the real world.
And, if done right, it’s just fun.