Monday, November 14, 2005


I'm doing the happy dance , since the check from my first magazine sale arrived today. It still strikes me as a little odd that I've had zero communication with the editor. The first time I realized they had bought the article was when it was published. I've never heard anything afterwords, either, though the check did arrive in a timely manner. I don't know if they are having trouble getting through to me via email (at least one person was), but I've since sent them an alternate email address and a fax number. If they were really trying to contact me, I figure they would have enclosed a note with the check, but nothing there, either. I guess that's just how this magazine runs things -- they are pretty busy, after all. It doesn't do my comfort zone any good, but I guess my only real reaction is to shrug and say "Whatever -- so long as I get paid!"

Which brings me to the topic of this post: Do we write for the money? We all know that even successful writers (with lottery-odds exceptions) don't make much money. In fact, most writers will never make enough to even live on. I think most of us would say that we aren't writing for the money, we're writing because we "have something to say" or some such. But is that really true? Can any of us honestly say, "I don't care if I never make a dime on anything I've written"? I think that very, very few of us can. So are we just kidding ourselves? If we're in this to make money, we are so in the wrong field. But I think it's fair to say that deep down, getting paid is a fundamental motivation for just about all of us.

I think I have an answer to the dichotomy, though. It's not really the money per se that we are interested in. But in writing, money is how we keep score. Whether a story is "good" or not is purely subjective. Just because one person didn't like it doesn't mean that it's a bad story -- in fact, it could be the best piece ever written. But when an editor pays for the story, then we can all agree on the points received in the game (equal to the number of greenbacks received, naturally). Thus, we can rate how good a writer we are by how many of those points we've received for our work. It's all about the game -- and even more importantly, it's all about validation.

So now you can honestly answer, "No, I'm not doing this for the money," because you aren't -- you're doing it for the points that money represents! Change it from money to Pulizers and you get the same effect, after all!

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