Moral hazard. It’s a tendency for people who are protected from the consequences of their actions to take more risks. So said Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, when posed the question (in the New Yorker) about why banks were willing to take risks that proved so damaging both to themselves and the rest of the economy.
It turns out that, in economics, moral hazard occurs when one party has more information than the other. It can also occur as a result of one party being able toascribe responsibility in part or in whole to another party.
I wonder if this applies to writers. Do writers have more of a struggle with taking risks in their writing because of the expectations placed upon them by the reading public, agents, the market?
If a writer takes risks, it’s unlikely to have a definitive damaging effect on the quality of their ideas, whereas it may affect the market because a reader has a choice to put down, chuck out – or buy more.
Julie and Julia and Enid are both films about the lives of well-known writers (Julia Childs and Julie Powell, and Enid Blyton respectively). In both films (and the book J&J), the writers had an enormous impact on the lives of those around them. All of these writers were very driven, and I’d go so far as to suggest that Enid B was well on the road to the State of Delusional.
Interestingly, though, both Blyton and Powell (in these stories, at least) said they did not want to ‘let down their readers’. What did this sense of responsibility do to their writing? Did it force them into a corner? Did it disable their risk-taking abilities?
Perhaps it comes down to that old question: For whom do you write? For others? Or yourself?