4 Key Responsibilities of Writers According to Philip Pullman

Illustrations by Nathan Gelgud

Attention authors: Philip Pullman has some advice for you. He wants you to make money from your writing. He wants you to make as much as you can.

The vast majority of writers are struggling just to get published, and the idea of not only getting published but of creating significant bank deposits from their work might sound a little like the old Steve Martin joke: You can be a millionaire and not pay taxes! How? First, get a million dollars.

Pullman is the author of the bestselling fantasy trilogy for young readers called His Dark Materials, the first book of which won him the Carnegie Medal. That book was Northern Lights, called The Golden Compass in the US. He’s been publishing literature for children for over thirty-five years, and along the way he’s made some money. When he encourages you to do the same, it’s not a cruel joke. It’s a way of encouraging artists not to be embarrassed about making money, and not being shy about trying to get as much as they can. Nobody is going to give you more than you asked for, so you might as well see what you can get. And if everyone does their best to get paid, the people who come up behind them might have an easier time of it.

Pullman’s advice for authors comes in the form of an essay on the writer’s responsibilities in his new collection Daemon Voices. During his long career, Pullman has been giving public talks, writing essays, even taken part in some literary debates. As a writer for young readers, he’s learned to be clear and to the point. The work collected here is in uncomplicated prose, even as Pullman takes on big subjects. He’s particularly good on author intention, why it doesn’t matter, but why it makes sense that people are so interested in it. Pullman’s not wishy-washy on anything, but he’s always willing to see an issue from more than one angle. Opinionated, but not didactical.

Pullman takes great care with his role as someone whose audience is made up of young people, and so has spent some time thinking about his responsibilities, and those of his fellow writers, so we’ve collected and illustrated a few of his key points here.

4 Responsibilities of Writers According to Philip Pullman

Key Writer’s Responsibilities according to Philip Pullman:
1. Make money.
2. Protect language.
3. Have tact.
4. Service the story.