To Better Ourselves?

I have been watching a fair amount of Star Trek lately – okay, a lot. The Next Generation specifically, but each of the different series revolves around a basic premise: Mankind has advanced technologically to the point where concerns about materials and resources are mostly extinct. Replicators exist that can construct matter in a manner that can basically spit out anything the user could desire. Crew members of the U.S.S. Enterprise use them mostly for food and drink, but their functionality doesn’t stop there. Presumably they can be used to construct anything physical, be they toys, games, pictures or literature (though antiquated at this future point in time).

This technology is not limited to the space-faring crew of the Enterprise, either. The devices are supposedly in use on Earth and on pretty much every colony or space station the Federation lays claim to. According to the Captain of the Enterprise, Jean Luc Picard, without concern for limited resources, humanity now works “to better” themselves.

My question is this: forget about the specific setting of the various Star Trek series for now, and consider your own present time and position. If you were left without want for material or resources, would your current artistic goals, activities and aspirations remain the same? Would they differ at all?

Most writers are certainly not in it for the money, and if they are, they may be a little misguided. It is my experience that for the most part, the effort put in usually greatly outweighs the physical or material gain. I don’t think this is an alien concept to any writer. I’ve been looking for a full-time application for my love of writing and editing, but, in the meantime I write Freelance. The money is often measly. I recently signed up for work on a site that started paying about $1.50 for 200-300 word articles, or, about half of this post. For 200-300 words, if I am writing for a client and not just myself, I would estimate about a half hour to an hour’s work, assuming some sort of research or preparation was going to be involved. Let’s say it takes one half hour from accepting the assignment to completely finishing and submitting an edited piece. That is still about $3.00 an hour. Not exactly rock star money.

On the other end of the spectrum, writers can stand to make quite a bit of money. One need only look no further than the likes of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. There is no point trying to break down exactly how much those two make, it would only make the rest of us feel bad.

My point is, whether we are making $3.00 an hour, or substantially more, many of us probably began pursuing publication with the dream of making a career of it. Take it back to my original question: without material concern, would we still continue to write? Would we write simply for the art of it, as a means to better ourselves and society?

Personally, I cannot see myself writing as much as I currently do. I am sure I would probably still be drawn to it, but would I really be motivated to hone my craft to a razor’s edge, “just because”? I think that without the challenge to see exactly how far I can take it, or the starry-eyed visions of a day when I’ve hurtled every obstacle to cross some oft dreamed of finish line, writing would lose some of its meaning to me.

Are any of you like me? In a Trek-like future, would you be the terry-cloth robed hedonist devouring barbeque rib after barbeque rib, or would your ideals win out? Would you be able to overlook the lack of a materialistic challenge and continue producing your art for its own sake, and with as much vigor?

5 responses on “To Better Ourselves?

  1. Brandon M Lindsay

    There is no doubt in my mind that the idea of a career in writing fuels a certain sense of urgency. Especially in this chaotic market we’re dealing with, having a large number of works can be the edge we need to succeed.

    On the other hand, what would I do if I could retire from the day-job scene? Would I still write? I think that I would, but perhaps I wouldn’t be so panicky about deadlines and tracking the market. Like you said, Kevin, we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t love writing for writing’s sake.

  2. Evan Braun

    Speaking for myself, I’m pretty sure I would be writing just because. Not prolifically, but I can hardly imagine a life that didn’t include writing.

  3. leigh

    I’m pretty sure that I would write more, if I wasn’t tied to a desk job to keep myself clothed and fed. But then, I’m aiming for the writing career because of the joy of writing and I personally love the craft, not because I want more money. When not actively engaged in other pursuits, I’m living in whole other worlds in my head. Probably about 60% of my life is spent someplace else. It might make me a bit loony, yes, but being a dreamer is in my DNA, so I’d do it whether it paid or not.

  4. Colette Vernon

    Wow, Kevin. Thought-provoking. I was raised to believe anything related to the arts was a career for “other” people. It wasn’t something real, down-to-earth, people do. I don’t think my parents gave that message on purpose, but it came through. I never had the chance to give fiction writing a chance until the last few years. So, in the world you describe, my entire life would be completely different. My parents would have been doing other things. They worked to put food on the table, not because they enjoyed their jobs in the slightest. So here’s a question? How does a society function when there are jobs nobody wants and no incentive to do them? This is why my hat’s off to the majority of blue-collar, and “low-position” white collar workers out there. I don’t think most people have their dream job and many aren’t lucky enough to even pursue it. They work to put food on the table and they keep our world functioning. So, if we’re able to somehow fit our dream of becoming a big-time author into the mix of “normal” life, we can be thankful for the opportunity. Many of us might not win, but what a privilege to play. I love writing, love my characters, and love my stories. Perfect world or not, I want to share them. But I’m also happy just to have them.

  5. Ann

    I’ve asked myself if I won the lottery, would I still write? The answer always is a resounding YES. It’s part of me. Some do sports, some love to cook, some read, some scrap book, I’m not one of those – I need to write. How do I know? I become a miserable troll when I don’t write.

    And with money comes opportunity – to explore different cultures, to be enriched and challenged by them. Many of my ideas come from visiting sites of ancient history, being in a foreign country where I don’t know the customs and the language – that shakes me free of my paradigms and lets my imagination soar!

    As for Star Trek – that’s Utopian literature – an ideal society which promotes peace and harmony across all nations and species in the universe. Rather boring? Perhaps. But the consolation is that although we strive for a writer’s utopia, the world and our lives will never be free of conflict, and hence, our job as writers will never be done!

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