Lena Dunham Thinks Writing for Money Is “Weird” and She’s Right

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Sometimes, when I’m staring at a blank computer screen at some ridiculous time of night, willing words to form in my brain, chewing at my lips as if I was coming down from the very best drug when actually I’m not coming down from anything, other than lack of sleep, I wonder why it is exactly that I write. What impulse is it that makes me want to torture myself in this particular creative endeavor? Money? Is it money? No, it’s not. Because writing with money as your goal would be, as Lena Dunham says, “a weird plan.”

Forbes reports that Dunham, “she of the $3.5 million book deal, thinks writing for money is ‘weird.’” This quote was taken from “an essay she penned for the published screenplay for Judd Apatow’s This is 40, where Dunham ponders the ‘many reasons’ people write which include ‘glory’ and the ability to use the keyboard to ‘figure things out.’”

Forbes writer Helaine Olen asks, “As for filthy lucre? That’s deemed ‘a weird plan.’”

Which, okay, how hard is Olen trying to miss the point and make it seem like Dunham is totally out-of-touch due in no small part to her astounding $3.5 million book deal? I haven’t read Dunham’s whole essay, but it seems like what Dunham is trying to say is that writing is not the kind of professional pursuit that usually leads to a hefty paycheck. And, last time I checked—and I check my bank account pretty frequently—she is totally correct. If I had “living in an apartment with a swimming pool full of money that I can dive into at will” as one of my life goals, maybe writing would not have been the smartest career path to follow. But building swimming pools of money isn’t one of my goals, at least it hasn’t been one since I grew up a little and realized that Scrooge McDuck would have broken his neck diving into that enormous pile of gold.

It’s easy to point to Lena Dunham—someone who came from a financially and creatively privileged upbringing—and say that of course she thinks it’s “weird” to write for money, she never had to worry much about money no matter the career path she chose. But, if you have any kind of innate artistic impulses, you’d know that’s ridiculous. If you feel the need to create, you do it. You might be writing on your Tumblr for an audience of 3 or you might be writing a critically acclaimed television show, but you just do it. Because you have to. Because—as a writer—when it comes down to it, I don’t mind the late nights in front of my computer. I don’t mind the times when I go over and over the same sentence, torturing the words until I get them just the way I want them. If, someday, I get a multimillion dollar book deal, I would probably drop dead from excitement, but I’m not holding my breath. Instead, I am just doing what I do, because it’s what I love. So, in that sense, Dunham is completely on point. Don’t write because making money is your plan. Do it because you’re a masochist. You won’t be disappointed.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen