The always thought-provoking Nick Mamatas has written an enlightening post on the "market" for short fiction. Nick hits the nail on the head when he says the best motivation for composing short fiction is for the enjoyment the author feels in typing those two wonderful sign-offs, "The End."
It sounds corny, but that notion of the love is the primary reason I write short fiction. I try to compose a longer project every year. It took me two years to write my first novel, which helped me get an excellent agent. Wendigo was largely written, in sips and swallows, in 2006 and 2007. It made the rounds to some very kind personal rejections, and I think it, at a minimum, created an impression on some of the editors who read it.
Bernadette Baker-Baughman, by the way, is taking names and whooping ass in the book-selling universe. Take a look at that sight and buy a few of those books--lots of diversity and many interesting titles on that list.
I wrote another novel in 2008, and a third this year. I have high hopes for ol' number three, of course. We'll see what 2010 holds.
But I never go long without a short project simmering. I typically have two projects going at the same time (in addition to the half-finished purgatory file on my desktop). I like the creative outlet that short fiction gives me, and I read a lot of short fiction every year. I subscribe to four magazines filled with short stories, and I read a dozen or more anthologies per year.
I love the stuff.
Have I made much selling it? Nope. But that's beside the point for me. Creating the stories, typing "The End," working through the revision process and attempting publication is its own reward. And if my story finds a home in the pages of the magazines I like to read, then that's all the better.
It's pert near impossible to make a living writing short fiction. I know this intellectually--not empirically (I've never tried it; I suppose if I was really hungry and cold, I might write more stories and maybe some of them might be stronger), of course. But I can't envision a future for myself as a writer in which I don't write in the short form.