Here’s a quote from film director Ingmar Bergman. I heard it in an interview which was included as a bonus feature on the blu-ray of his film The Magician and quite liked it. I think it definitely applies to writers:
I’ll tell you very plainly how I see the relationship between an artist and his audience by telling you a little story that I heard many years ago and that made quite an impression on me.
You see, during the middle ages, a certain wood-carver in China was given the task of crafting a stand for the temple bells. It was a very honorable assignment for this Chinese wood-carver, and he set about his work.
While he carved, he started thinking about all the money he’d earn for this bell stand, and as it happened, the carving turned out quite poorly. But since he was an ambitious Chinese craftsman, he started all over again.
But this time too, as he carved, he started thinking about how he would win everyone’s love with this incredibly beautiful stand. And this attempt too was a failure. So he destroyed that stand and started a third time.
But this time it occurred to him that he would gain immortality with this bell stand, and his third attempt was a failure too.
With that, our Chinese wood-carver grew furious as only a Chinese wood-carver can be, and he decided to try a fourth time. This time he had just one thought in his head: to create a bell stand.
This time he succeeded and in so doing gained love, money, and immortality.