Thursday, May 3, 2012

Show Me the Money or How I'm Hot When I Eat Enchiladas


Photo credit: mconnors from morguefile.com


I just spent a mind-numbing hour on a conference call with a mortgage adviser. Are you so jealous? I think you should be. It was all very adult-y and I got to eat chicken enchiladas and fruit salad covered in caramel sauce while asking intelligent questions and she was none the wiser. This amused me endlessly. As did the fact that I had massive plumber's butt the whole time and my hair very strongly resembled a certain teen pop sensation's and she couldn't see that. She could sit there and think I was totally hot and smart. Which, of course, I am. You just have to look at me with the right eyes. Or, you know, on a conference call.

I don't want to talk about how hot I really am, though. Not today. What struck me during this conversation is that while we were talking about certain tax credits and whatnot, she was explaining that we wouldn't ever have to pay back some sort of tax credit fee thingy (this is, of course, the technical term. I'm very adept at jargon.)  because our income was very much less than likely to exceed the maximum amount allowed and blah blah. So in an act of wizardry, she showed us on our very own laptop when she wasn't even in the room some kind of tax schedule. Her partner (who is clearly a ghost who comes to your home and plays with your computer and opens websites you never knew existed and proprietary software applications and highlights things while she talks to you on speakerphone) highlighted a number and she asked: "Do you see your income exceeding this in ten years?" and she then laughed in such a way as to say "Obviously not, chuckleheads."

I had a conversation via some different email ghosts today with a writer friend of mine about this very topic. Well, sort of. We are writers, and therefore tacky, so we were talking about money. Specifically, earning money from writing. Every book on writing that I have ever read has pretty much said, point blank, don't write for money. Even Stephen King, who makes more money than some small countries, said "Don't write for the money. Write because you love it." I can understand this. Probably even Stephen King only makes about ten bucks an hour when everything is said and done if you do the math. What would that equation be? Number of hours spent writing, editing, thinking about writing, thinking about editing, sweating while you wait to hear back about submissions divided by number of dollars received for finished product, less expenses (which would include your computer, paper, journals, coffee, writing pants, special face creams to reduce the visible signs of aging, more coffee, antacids to counteract the massive consumption of coffee, and so on.)

I have had a long, illustrious career as an unpaid writer. Starting at age six I have written stories and articles and scenes and poems pretty consistently. My publishing credits include: a poem in the church bulletin when I was 9, my story displayed in the Governor's mansion when I was 11, my articles, poems, and stories for The Underground  secretly copied on the faculty copy machine and distributed around the school when I was 16 and 17, an article about the irresponsibility of the collaborators on The Underground  in the actual school newspaper when I was 17; in my 20s there were a few chapbooks floating around sold for a pack of smokes or a cup of coffee, in a poetry creative writing class when I was 25,  my professor (whose name was Chuck Taylor, I kid you not) said one of my poems reminded him of Alan Ginsberg's Howl (an assessment I believe was based either solely on the length of my poem or an utter unfamiliarity with Ginsberg's poem), in a short fiction creative writing class when I was 26, my professor (who looked like a shar pei, I kid you not) read one of my stories to the class as "an excellent example of good tone without any plot whatsoever", I kept my writing to myself for several years after that and then now, in the springtime of my life - my very late 30s - I started "publishing" a blog, wherein I have done a few guest posts, had a few things featured, and met some dandy folks.

So as the magic mortgage lady and her ghost asked us a semi-rhetorical question about what we imagined our income would be in 10 years, this little part of my brain piped up (silently, I might add. Aren't you proud?) "Well, you don't know! What if I get my book deal by then?!" You should be a little less proud, because my mouth was full of enchiladas at the time and I didn't want to spit verde sauce on the phone or the laptop. I am at a point where, as my writer friend and I discussed, I would be happy with coffee money. Or perhaps enough to buy jeans that only I had ever worn. But even if that never materializes, I don't want it to be because I never tried. I write and I write and I write. I polish and I offer my demented little gems around to whomever will look at them. So far, they say "That's lovely. For someone else. Please try again." I'm OK with that. I'll keep writing, I'll keep sending my babies out with their notes attached to their chests, I'll keep receiving whatever criticism or praise I can get. Because I love to write. I need to write. I can't rely on my freakish good looks and stunning fashion sense forever. Besides, I learned tonight that it's win-win for me. If I don't make doodly-squat, I won't have to pay back that tax credit fee thingy when we go to sell our house that we haven't even bought yet. If I hit it big, well, then I can have my CPA sort that out.

21 comments:

  1. Yay for win-win situations! Boo for doubtful ghost mortgage lady who doesn't know doodly-squat (I had forgotten about those words. Will be using them frequently this weekend) about how great a writer you are, and the future book deals you will acquire.

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    1. Doodly-squat! Doodly-squat! Doodly-squat! Use it in a post, I want to see it.

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  2. We are doing home made sour cream chicken enchiladas that are wonderful. The Wifey did her second batch last night and they are just as good or better than what I get at the local restaurants. WeLL, I helped a little, I boiled the chicken meat ...

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    1. Send me the recipe and we will compare notes. Enchiladas are comfort food in these parts.

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  3. Well, when you do publish and become quite famous (and rich, no doubt), I can say I knew you when you had massive plumbers butt and wore somebody else's jeans :)

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    1. Well said! I love this as much as the original post! :-)

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    2. Bless your heart, Judy. Even if I get rich and famous, I will probably still have massive plumber's butt and wear other people's jeans. It's kind of a thing with me.

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  4. You are a great writer. I can see your "babies" being published Now, I want chicken enchiladas!

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    1. Thank you, that is so nice of you to say. Hope you found some enchiladas. Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. I love your demented little gems, Lou. :)

    Hopefully, when you're rich and famous, you'll still publish some free content for those of us who still aren't earning coffee money... let alone book money.

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    1. If ever I'm rich and famous, I will... I was going to say something witty, but honestly I have no idea what I would do with wealth or fame. I'll just stick to coffee money for now. ;)

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  6. Jeans that no one else wore? Dare we dream that big?
    Dreams are one thing that keeps us writer-types going. Though, I often get tired of the word 'someday'.

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    1. I know, right? I grow tired of that word, too. I also grow tired of my jeans falling down.

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  7. My mom used to pay me for my stories. That counts, right?

    I have made money writing, and not just parental bankroll. For about a decade, I wrote a daily column (about any damn thing I wanted!) for a family of community newspapers that covered a good number of Chicago's suburbs. In big time columnist terms, that job was a microstep up from writing for Mom's pocket change, but I absolutely loved it and miss it still. My blog is sort of its ugly cousin, not nearly as popular, but if I close my eyes real tight and pretend, I'd still make out with it.

    I've also written a crapload of paid website content, though I made the decision a few years ago to never, ever do it again. I had a nice steady roster of regular clients who (unlike most of the jackwagons who hire writers to produce web content) believed in paying pretty well for quality work. I really liked cashing the checks, but hated the work and every time I sat down to write the stuff, I felt little pieces of my soul dying off. I finally had to stop. I have bills to pay and working is not optional, but I refuse to take something I love and suck the life out of it, not even for first owner rights to jeans.

    My books will come. They will. And they'll be beautiful.

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    1. They will be beautiful, indeed!
      I love that your mother paid you for your stories. That's a good mother. I also appreciate your candidness (that's a word?) about writing website content. I think about that from time to time, but just can't bring myself to do it. And then I think I'm just being all snotty la-di-da, but I really do think it would just take all the joy out of writing for me. Now I can say that Word Nerd told me not to. ;)

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  8. Something tells me you're hot all the time, and not just when discussing highly specific mortgage thingys and eating enchiladas. Even with massive plumber's crack, you're always on. Your mind amazes me. It might be a hot mess, but it produces some fantastic stuff. Keep it up. Someone, some day, will pay you for it. And if I get the chance, I'll be one of those someones. Promise.

    #sosyerface

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    1. So hot you wouldn't even believe it.

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  9. Oh to have money "problems" big enough for a CPA to have to sort out.

    Lots of it or little of it or no money at all, I suspect you're one of the ones who couldn't stop if you tried. May we long continue to be the benficiaries of that particular compulsion. :)

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    1. There are certain advantages to being insane, I suppose. I will do this until they bury me. Hopefully that will be later rather than sooner. Maybe a little less poorer?

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