TONI MORRISON: There’s a difference between writing for a living and writing for life. If you write for a living, you make enormous compromises, and you might not ever be able to uncompromise yourself. If you write for life, you’ll work hard; you’ll do it in a disciplined fashion; you’ll do what’s honest, not what pays. You’ll be willing to say no when somebody wants to play games with your work. You’ll be willing to not sell it. You’ll have a very strong sense of your work, your self-development.
CLAUDIA TATE: What has been the cost of success for you?
TONI MORRISON: I don’t subscribe to the definition of success I think you’re talking about. For me, whatever the cost is, I don’t pay it. Success in those terms is a substitute for value in your life. When you say a successful life, you generally mean a life surrounded by material things. I continue to live my life pretty much as I always have, except I may live a little better now because I can make some choices I wasn’t able to before. Having more money than I had a few years ago makes it possible for me to have choices and, therefore, make them. But in terms of meaningful things, relationships with other people, none of that has changed. What changes is not always the successful person; other people change.
from Conversations with Toni Morrison, edited by Danille Taylor-Guthrie (interview from 1983)