Okay, be honest now. Have you read the first post? No? Well, go there first, and all of this will make more sense. Really.
At the risk of being tiresomely familiar, there's a tale that George Bernard Shaw once asked a woman at a party if she'd have sex with him for a million pounds. "Yes," she said, after some reflection, "I suppose I would."
"Then how about twenty pounds?" he asked.
"Of course not!" she replied. "What kind of woman do you think I am?"
"Madam," he supposedly said, "we've already established what sort of woman you are. What we're quibbling about is price."
His point is taken. But so is hers; there are a lot of numbers between between £20 and £1,000,000. Anybody who thinks everything is a matter of quantity rather than quality should compare a swallow of vodka with quaffing a quart.
Still: is what we're quibbling about here a matter of principle...or price?
I can't quite make up my mind about this topic. I think that the matter comes down to one of the "artist" versus the "professional," but even then I'm not so sure.
I'm morally certain (a phrase I stole from Patrick O'Brian, since I've never been morally certain in my life) that there's no right or wrong answer. Everything is fuzzy, and even fuzzier once we get off into the realm of hypotheticals.
But, just to check, and to get utterly ridiculous, let's look at a, umm, specific hypothetical:
"Give us a day of your writing time, and we'll give you enough cash, and cachet, that the other 364 days of your year will be generously paid for. Do what you like with the rest."
That would be hard for me to turn down. (Yeah, yeah, the road to hell, et cetera, ad nauseum, and other late Latinates.)
Would you trade in six weeks of paid writing labor for a year to do as you like? (That's what Faulks did.)
Well, I confess: I would, readily.
But we already know what kind of woman I am.
[nb. I won't even start to remark on the whole sexist, gender-laden, who-is-taking-what-from-whom-sex-for-pay issue here. So why did I use that analogy in the first place? Well, largely because it is freighted with bushels of the same kinds of concealed, value-laden goodies that we confront when we ask how a writer "ought" to spend their time.]
How about two months of your year, for ten to do with a you want? Three, leaving you nine?
Six months? Half of your year?
For most of us, that would still leave us more time for our own work than we have right now...
I find this to be a fascinating question, and even more fascinating if we push it to extremes. Suppose, for example, that you could make a good living, for yourself and your family, by spending six months of the year as a writer on some stupid soap opera...and then had the other six months to work on whatever you chose.
Good trade-off? Horrifying sell-out?
And is what's bothersome is that this hypothetical, a) it pushes everything down to a real matter of character, or, b) it proposes something that is far more clear-cut than anything life offers us?
I don't know. I guess that for a real artist, the answer would lie in whether the six months of hackwork benefitted--or at least didn't harm--the six months of other work.
I could make an argument that fictioneering of any sort is a benefit, and allows the writer to hone their storytelling skills. If you get paid for it, so much the better, and if you get paid enough that it allows you to follow your passion, you're nearing nirvana.
Yet I could make an argument that any storytelling that isn't your main passion is a diversion.
Still, suppose I offered you 364 days of pay for one day of work for hire?
Hmm. Howabout two months, with ten months off?
Well, howsabout...oh. Sorry. We've been here before, haven't we?