How Writers Create Money From Nothing [Discussion]

Your creativity CREATES new money
Your creativity CREATES new money

People struggle with the realization that creating fiction creates jobs. Always.

In this miserable economy, I think we as readers and writers need to take a look at the powerful economic force one person with an idea and the guts to get it out there can be.

So I’ve written the article Money From Nothing: The Economic Value of Writing Original Fiction to discuss the power of the individual writer at every level to create economic good—including the value of writing unpublished fiction, as well as the good done by the writer who publishes either commercially OR via self-publishing.

Read the article there: Talk HERE about how you’re a force for good in the world.

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62 responses to “How Writers Create Money From Nothing [Discussion]”

  1. Wayne Avatar

    Hi, Holly.
    I really enjoyed your short that was posted here published in a Baen Chicks in Chainmail anthology(the snow white take, I forget the name). I have written ten shorts in the 10 to 20k range and 2 books so far. I have been struggling with editing them and sure nothing is remotely good enough to submit. This article gave me hope, and a much needed pep talk. I seem to need a lot of those. My first drafts next to the smooth polished fiction from the pros looks like some primary schooler scribbled it in crayon.
    Thanks for this.

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      Thank you. The story was Armorella, and it was a blast to write. 😀

  2. Tony L. Avatar
    Tony L.

    I just joined the site. This was a very inspirational piece. I am not a writer, at least in my mind. I have written technical documents and published some articles in technical journals, but that is a far cry from the fiction stories I have imagined in my mind, bouncing ideas back and forth, for years. I have two large story arcs that I have played with and wondered if they were even worth pursuing since I have a full time job.

    Now that I am 55, kids are gone, have a little more time on my hands, I have started thinking again about my stories and found this website. What a treat to read something like this and know that even if my stories are junk they are helping others. I am at the point where I want others to see what has been mostly dormant in my mind, taking peeks around the corner at odd times.

    Thanks again!

    1. Holly Avatar

      Hi, Tony,

      Welcome to the site. I’m glad I could offer some help.

      A lot of folks are starting out where you are. Consider joining the HTTS Boot Camp (free membership) and taking my free Flash Fiction course. I’ve designed the course to get you through the basics of telling a good story with three weeks.

  3. conniecockrell Avatar

    Thanks, Holly. I’ve put out a couple of novels, and an anthology and a couple of short stories that were accepted into anthologies. None of them are paying me money. But, by your reckoning, I’m already doing a great deal. It’s not money in my pocket, per se, but it is gelt in my personal accomplishments bank. Helping others is always a good thing and will pay me back someday, in some way. Thanks for the point of view.

  4. Sandra Conner Avatar

    Hello, Holly. Thank you for this article. I just came across your blog tonight, and I can tell you that I don’t believe it was a coincidence, since I have been pretty ‘down’ lately concerning the questionable success of my novels and my non-fiction books. But more than once I have encouraged myself with the truth that you spoke of here: Every time I write a new book, I have created something the never before existed. However, I hadn’t given a lot of thought to how inter-connected the actual ‘work’ of writing is with the rest of the world. Apart from thinking that perhaps what I wrote might encourage someone or lift their faith (I write mainly Christian works), I hadn’t considered that my purchasing of products and using them in effective ways was probably helping other people and their lives as well. And I had never considered the idea that I was creating money. Yeah! Your view of our craft has encouraged me deeply. Blessings on you and your work.
    Sandra Conner

  5. david Avatar

    Okay. I feel slightly less like a bum for sitting here playing with dreck instead of earning money.

    ‘Being your own boss’ only works if you do. So my ‘inner boss’ is frequently telling my muse to shut up so I can grub for dollars.

    Those rejection letters on my desk don’t impress my inner boss as much as checks from my clients.

    You have given me some pebbles to throw at the inner boss.
    “Hey, back off, loudmouth! I’m contributing to the economy, here!”

  6. Janet Avatar

    Dear Holly,

    I never thought that the 40 something composition books that are stacked in piles around my room with half written stories in them have done so much good for the world. The composition book phase was from before I got a laptop. I’m a highscool student, but I’ve been writing since sixth grade. It is good to know that it has helped someone. I have no clue if my writeing is any good as a work of literature, but it is good to know that someone has benifitted by my museings.

    Thank you!

  7. Jaganshikenshin Avatar

    “Say that you’re turning out the most gruesome dreck the planet has ever seen, and say that you are never, ever, ever going to get better. You’re still doing good things for your corner of the world. You bought notebook and pens or a typewriter or word processor or a computer, you bought software, you bought paper, printer, printer toner, or ribbons and Wite-Out. Somewhere out there, some small portion of the economy thanks your for your steady support of the products above mentioned. ”

    Lol…. and some of us bought a LOT of that……

  8. HP van Duuren Avatar

    Hello Holly,

    Thanks for your post, although I do know that Publishing Companies, Agents, Translators, and the Movie Business might Love you already Holly(wood…?) I am not yet sure how much they love me….,


    I love your post, I like the idea to use writing for offering encouragement, I already have been thinking about possibly – as an ‘Online Publisher’ – create somesort of ‘Online Virtual Real Estate’ where I can offer a Podium for writers or something like that.

    And for what helping people is concerned I also have a
    – Happy Home Business Lifestyle Blog – where people can discover how – with their writing – they can (pre) sell Products with doing Affiliate Marketing. (You can find a link to that Blog in my – Writing Lifestyle Blog –)

    Since currently on my – Writing Lifestyle Blog – I mainly (pre) sell things like Laptop Computers, Espresso Makers and a few other products such as Subscriptions on Specific Magazines only since not all the products I (pre) sell are currently all productst I have myself, so I was already thinking about possibly also (pre) sell the Printer I actually have myself,

    Your story made me realise that also things like Pinter Cardridges and Paper are also possible products to consider (pre) selling on that blog, only many writers seem to be against my prosperity complaining about having to many ads on my blog.

    Do you have any possible additional suggestions about how to create money or how to invent money with my writing…?

    All the Best,
    To your Happy – Writing – Inspiration,

  9. Jess Avatar

    Electrifying. The right words at the right time. Holly , you’re simply amazing!

  10. Denise Barker Avatar

    Holly, this is my newest #1 inspirational message. I’m not prone to writer’s block, but I’m sure your article would cure it. We all need pats on the back whether Traditionally Published, Indie Published or Not-Yet-Published, and you’ve just given the writing community a HUGE accolade. Thanks for that! And for all the other things you do . . . .

  11. Diana Redwing Avatar
    Diana Redwing

    Holly, you are the most positive force in the universe I have come across in a while. Thank you. I am going to get something ready to send out right now!

  12. Peter Avatar

    As a teen that likes to write, that article was amazing! Thank you for writing it!
    My question is, did you tell yourself those things while you were writing this article?

  13. Mel S. Avatar
    Mel S.

    Good afternoon, Holly

    I think I love you! After wallowing in self pity for the past 3 days like a pouty child, your article struck a chord with me.

    Time to grow up, strap on a pair and do the thing I claim is my life blood. It’s not just about me (ego etc); it DOES have wider positive implications I’d never considered before. Thanks for highlighting them and giving me some perspective and humility.

  14. Irene Avatar

    I absolutely love it. Just the kind of positivity I so desperately needed.

    I LOVE your expressions, “create money” and especially “invent money”. I never looked at money as being invented! And, of course, whatever we work on does add some value — not necessarily financial — to the world…

    I. Feel. Empowered. THANKS HOLLY!

  15. Pat Avatar

    That article was very inspiring and motivating. Thanks for your awesome website and for sharing your considerable knowledge and experience with us.

  16. wlabrador Avatar

    You’re the most positive cynic i’ve ever had the pleasure to receive such an awesome newsletter from!

    1. Holly Avatar


      I’m not actually a cynic, though. I’m a realist.

      Sometimes the reality is that something you do is good—a truth people who have already decided everything in the universe has a fish hook in it somewhere miss.

  17. Hazel Avatar

    Thanks Holly for the much-needed perspective. I work 2 jobs to pay the bills and it is so easy to get bogged down between the 9-5 day job and the weekend job. And so hard to keep my imagination awake/alive long enough to get words on paper.

    With this article, all of your others, and your classes you are giving me the tools that I need and the encouragement to keep trying!

  18. Barbara Ehrentreu Avatar

    Someone from SheWrites sent this to everyone in the group and I knew this had to be special. I loved learning that by finally publishing my first novel I am contributing to the economy of the country. You made me feel so good about being an author. I thought about all the people who have benefited from my book already: my copyeditor, line editor, cover artist and of course my publisher. Plus I’m thinking of all the places that will benefit when it’s published: amazon, barnes&noble(Nook), Kindle, and all the people who work for them. My book will be an e-book first, but in about 6 months it will be in print. So then more people will benefit.:) Thank you so much for showing me how much I am helping just by doing what I love!! This was such a great article I am going to send it all over. All writers need to read this!!

  19. B.T.Rowley Avatar

    Thanks Holly, I had never thought of writing in those terms and now I feel great!

  20. Sasha Avatar

    I loved your article! It’s very inspiring to know that at any level a creative person is making a difference in the world.

  21. Joy Avatar

    I’ve been struggling to both find and rewrite chapters I’ve lost somehow, as well as write the book I’ve outlined, doubting that anyone would be interested in publishing or reading my story, considering where the book market is currently headed. Then, checking my email, I run across your article, and am reminded why I chose to write in the first place, to not only entertain people, but also to make a difference in their lives, however small that may be. Thank you, Holly Lisle, for renewing my passion for writing in the hopes that my books can help others.

  22. Dave Avatar


    You’re awesome! I’m sure some of us writers try to convince ourselves that we’re accomplishing something with our writing, but you put it down in words and wrote it so well. Thank you!

  23. Christian Avatar

    This article really opened my eyes. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with a couple….hundred… (Facebook!) of my friends. 🙂

  24. Jennifer Avatar

    Thank you for a very encouraging article, Holly. I have been following your website and receiving your useful newsletters for a while now, and this article rates with the best you have written. Thank you for being so encouraging to other writers (all writers are not so sincere), and thank you so much for posting the article about why you are now going to self-pub through digitizing your books. That has really led me to attempt the same because I want to publish what I want to write and not have some editor or agent tell me to change something that I feel strongly about just to sell a book.

  25. NancyD Avatar

    Thanks for the wonderful encouragement. Now I have an answer for my husband, family, and friends who ask me why I write. I’m sharing my own quirky universe and my long-loved characters with my readers AND supporting the Office Depot copy paper market with my first draft, second draft, and HTRYN!

  26. Ciara Clarke Avatar
    Ciara Clarke

    Holly, since you put it THAT way…what am I waiting for!!!

    Your wisdom, Holly, I’d like you to know, as you took the time to write and inspire us, has opened my mind to an entirely new way of thinking about my creative efforts. I will never be able to think of my writing in the same way I used to…and to echo others’ comments the fact that I received your article at this very point in time has a synchronicitous value that I simply can’t ignore. I’m part way through my sideways course… progressing slowly, like the Tortoise rather than the Hare…but equipped with my new mindset that your article has spawned…I will win the race!

    I truly appreciate everything that you do to help and encourage your fellow writers! You are a force for the good!

  27. J V Ashley Avatar

    I love the concept of making something from nothing. Creating somthing substantial from the imagination.
    Thank you

  28. Val Clark Avatar

    Brilliant encouragement to keep on keeping on regardless of where I am in the process. Can I reproduce some of this – accredited to you of course – in the memoir class I’m teaching?

    1. Holly Avatar

      Of course. Just let ’em know where they can find the whole article. 😀

  29. Sallie Avatar

    As a friend of mine says, laughing so hard here! I suspect I’ve purchased an entire stationery story over my lifetime of writing. I’m much encouraged by the self publishing ideas. Looking forward to your success and mine …

  30. Marsha Prescod Avatar

    What a lovely, heartwarming article! I got the email link after a crappy week, where I’d learnt that I’d lost 3/4 of my work hours due to cuts in the university sector here in the UK.Trying to get back into being published (or self-publishing) years after my book has gone out of print.In a world where the publishing and book selling market has changed so much. I just want to be able to support myself through writing fiction. An article like this- and the other work Holly does to encourage other writers-lifts the spirit, and firms resolve. Thank you, Holly Lisle. A few days ago, I started a blog specifically to display my writing.I’ll bear the points made in this article, and the comments, in mind

  31. Kieran Avatar

    It never ceases to amaze me how often you write something that is exactly what I need to hear just when I need to hear it. I have been struggling with a series of roadblocks in my writing and appreciating the value of both the writing and myself as a writer have, at the moment, not been high on my list. Thank you for shaking up my perspective.

    1. Amy Avatar

      She does that often, doesn’t she? Thanks, Holly!

  32. Laura Eitniear Avatar
    Laura Eitniear

    Just when I thought my writing didn’t make a difference, here comes Holly to tell it like it is! Thanks for your encouragement, tips and caring!

  33. Amy Avatar

    This article awed me. Seriously. I’d never looked at it from that perspective before.

    It also inspires me to write the best I can and send something good into the world. Who knows how far it’ll go.

    Thank you.

  34. Susanna Avatar

    Thanks for the encouraging words about how writing creates money. Though I struggle for my own writing to produce more of that money for myself, it feels good to know all my submissions are helpful to the economy and monetarily benefit somebody, at least. Lately, I’ve felt like giving up. But your words urge me to persevere. So I will. Thanks.

  35. Louise Mandar Avatar

    Hi Holly,
    You often bring-up a specific issue to writers, but just as easily applied to anyone following their dreams.

    I write and am building a business online. I never really thought how the pursuit of my dreams (writing and my own business) enabled employment for others or boosted the economy from my spending money on my tools of the trade. I feel successful already and well on my way.

    Thanks for another great post,

    1. Holly Avatar

      Anyone who creates anything has the same basic effect on the economy. Writers can do it with just about the lowest possible cash outlay, and can create some huge returns.

      But the active pursuit of dreams, and the creation of the products of those dreams, boosts the economy.

      And even if you aren’t creating jobs for millions, adding to your own bottom line, or one other person’s, is a good thing.

  36. Sue Santore Avatar

    Once again, Holly, you have written an article with bite to it that makes me stop and think. Yes, I do produce a creative product. Whether it makes tons of money is not most important. (Certainly would be nice, though!) I was getting discouraged with my current book, feeling that it stinks. I’m pressing on through it and will use your HTRYN course to get the book I want from it. I am so glad that I took both your courses.

  37. J.J. Lancer Avatar

    This was a little too feel-good / self-help / Oprah in tone for me to love, but I think you made some good points. Everyone from the lowest of the low to the best of the best is making some sort of impact somewhere.

    It’s a positive way to look at the situation. Very nice.

    1. Holly Avatar

      😀 I generally take heat for being too dark.

      Clearly, you’re seeing an economic dark side to writers writing.

      I’m game. Pitch it into the ring, and I’ll consider it.

  38. donnie Avatar

    You know, I had never thought of it that way. Well since i’m making someone a little money i really need to do that rewrite on my novel that’s been sitting around for years so that maybe i can make a little money for myself and inflate the economy some more.

  39. June Avatar

    Hi Holly,
    Thank you for this article. It was just the shot in the arm,I needed. (pardon the pun)
    Thank you again,

    1. Kass Avatar

      That’s a good way to look at things. Even if I’m good and I make money from it, I’ll still only write because I love it.

      1. June Avatar

        I feel the same way. Writing is like breathing for me. I can’t do without either one of them.

  40. Gerhi Janse van Vuuren Avatar

    I love the idea that I am a force for good. It would be nice to be making a lot of money while being a force for good, but other than that I’m fine with it.

    What you missed in the article is that when you do sit alone writing you are also not just a mindless consumer and public nuisance. You are not strip mining the earth, throwing old ladies of bridges, creating nightmares for drug counseling centers or clogging up the legal system with juvenile antics. In other words, you create your own, harmless, fix.

  41. Lauren Miller Avatar

    Holly, thank you for this amazing, absolutely encouraging article about writing and the difference it can make. I had chills reading it and had to forward a link to all my contacts!

    It’s really remarkable how writers at any level can contribute to bettering their surroundings — not just in terms of economy, but also by their mood and actions too. If I write something that makes me smile, chances are, I’ll smile at somebody I pass in the street. It’s a chain reaction, like those old soda commercials. Anyway, thank you for brightening my day with this article and I’m positive that the feedback you get will give you a bright day too!

  42. Nan Roberts Avatar
    Nan Roberts

    Thanks for being so encouraging. I haven’t even read the article yet, just the email, and it really helps a lot.
    And I love this new website, it looks great, and the organization is very clear.
    (Does the “prove you’re human” thing *have* to be arithmetic? Ok, so this one wasn’t so hard. But still.)

  43. Fred Black Avatar
    Fred Black

    WOW! Oh, did I say wow? Yeah, buddy. What a great boost, and I’m at the point of almost giving up on my novel only to be confronted with a kick in pants and get back to work. Such an inspiration. Thanks Holly.

  44. Helenee Avatar

    I sure do agree with you, Holly, on the point of writers creating jobs in an economy that sucks. It’s very important to keep on creating. Just that… Creating.

    On the other hand, what is it, really, that we’re creating?
    I still believe in writers’ responsibility, in the ideas and mentalities they promote – because people a r e influenced by words (as well as by actions, of course).

    I don’t believe that mediocre writers should shut up and let others write for them. I believe they should strive to get better, always better. Although, I’d love to see some more humility in the way they are self-defined, in their bearing, in the bombast with which they tout their self-proclaimed ‘intellectual’ identity.

    When bombarded with mediocrity, a reader might lose the measure of what real excellence is.

    1. Holly Avatar

      On the other hand, what is it, really, that we’re creating?

      WE aren’t creating anything. There is no collective creation in the writing of original fiction. Even writers who collaborate have to do their parts individually.

      Individual writers create, and succeed or fail based on what they create.

      Writing is an amazing bastion of independent thought and action—and even writers who don’t care to get better, or who write dreadful books, or even who write books I find philosophically repugnant, are creating work that has positive effects.

      Sometimes, their creation runs counter to philosophies of destruction that they hold. (Anarchists should not write books—they’re stepping all over everything they claim to believe in when they do. And I laugh at them.)

      When bombarded with mediocrity, a reader might lose the measure of what real excellence is.

      Never underestimate readers. They know crap when they read it. (Some of them happen to like it, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know what it is.)

      1. Johanna Avatar

        As for readers knowing crap when they read it, but liking it anyway — that is definitely true! Not that I know this from personal experience or anything…. (Of course, my love for crappy writing usually applies more to some TV shows I watch that shall remain nameless, but I think it’s the same principle.)

      2. Sallie Avatar

        What, not even the Anarchist’s Cookbook? (Oh, my, does that ever date me )

        1. Holly Avatar

          If you must use the tools you decry as evil to create the product you wish to use to overthrow those tools and the philosophy that underlies them, you are not only a hypocrite—you are proving the superiority of the thing you hate over the thing you uphold.

          Someone championing destruction by being creative and writing a book about it?

          So…yeah. I scorn even the Anarchist’s Cookbook. Especially the Anarchist’s Cookbook. It proves its own lie by having to have been created in the first place.

          But while it was in print, it still paid the rent for its publisher, who published worthwhile books by other people through the funds it received from that dreck. So its creator not only failed to live up to his principles at the time—he actively supported the work of those whose principles were the antithesis of his own.

      3. Helenee Avatar

        Ok, by ‘we’ I meant ‘a writer’ – no collective connotation.
        Thanks for the editing 😀

        Interesting thoughts on ‘anarchist’ creation – but, then, I guess it depends on which definition of anarchism one is considering.

  45. Charlotte Abel Avatar

    Thanks for sharing this valuable insight. I love the idea that I’ve created something out of nothing. It proves magic is real 😉

    I also love hearing from readers that something I’ve written has touched their hearts, made them laugh or simply entertained them for a few hours.

  46. Michael Avatar

    I think I’m the first NaNo entry that has accompanying action figures…

  47. Dawn L. Avatar
    Dawn L.

    Dear Holly:

    I’ve just read your article. Thank-you for writing it and for sharing it with your readers. It is much-needed encouragement in a world that often regards the arts as little more than dispensable, self-indulgent luxuries (i.e. “hobbies”).

    Your article is an important reminder that we do need to remain conscious of the NEED for art — literature, paintings, music, et al — in our world. Thanks again.


  48. Kari Avatar

    This, Holly. This is why I remain a fervent fan of everything you write, even though you write in a different genre than what I’m drawn to. And this, precisely, is what has drawn me to you and has kept me returning again and again and has encouraged me to purchase HTTS and HTRYN and everything else you have written on the process of writing. And this is why I know that you will succeed in self-publishing and you have already succeeded. And this is why and WHAT I want to learn from you. You are awesome.

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