How do you feel about easy money?
I know that your immediate answer is ‘fine’ or even ‘where can I get me some?’ but seriously, if you’re a writer, stop and think.
Do you really believe in easy money? Do you genuinely, deep down, think that if it only took an hour to write, you should get paid a hundred quid for it?
Or do you feel that something would be wrong with that picture? Does your innermost being whimper that there’s something nasty about the idea of getting paid so much for an hour’s literary doodling, when you’ve sweated blood and expelled tears over much better work that’s never found a home, let alone a home with a nice return payment attached.
I suspect that at least half the writers reading this are confronting an inner myth right now, and I suspect this because whenever I lead a workshop this myth, and a couple of others, will seep into the room, or – more likely – will seep through later email communications with participants.
Myths are prevalent. Literary myths are particularly so, because they are beautifully couched in language that works for writers and so they slither into us while we’re still admiring the quality of the syntax. And if you’re a writer who’s never been anything else, myth comparison is not going to be your strong suit.
Consider these famous words: There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith and Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money. Virginia Woolf. Neither is particularly positive about our craft and neither offers much sense of self-esteem, or self-fulfilment through writing. This is the kind of myth I’m talking about.
Now compare and contrast: when Auguste Escoffier created Peach Melba to honour opera star Dame Nellie Melba, he didn’t feel wracked by failure that it only took him an hour to create a new dish good enough to bear the name of one of opera’s most exacting stars, instead he said something along the lines of ‘This great dessert is my compliment to a great lady’. Because what Auguste knew, and what people in almost every other industry know, is that it’s not the hour that matters – it’s the years it took to get there. Vidal Sassoon cut hair like an angel, and when you’d been in his hands for an hour, you looked and felt like a different person. But it wasn’t that hour that counted, it was the years he spent learning his trade that allowed him to know what your hair wanted better than you did.
The time it takes to create something is not generally indicative of its value. I know many a writer who’s been working on a novel for a decade - and all those novels are mediocre. It’s the writers who’ve got on with many projects, who’ve bashed their egos against the publishing industry until the prickly bits have been knocked off or smoothed over, who’ve spent time exploring what fiction is, and why it gets published, who’ve produced good work.
And, dear writer, until you accept that you’re good enough to produce, in an hour, fiction worth hundreds of pounds, you will struggle with an inferiority complex that will make you bitter, twisted and quite possibly, poorer than necessary.
Easy money courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik at Flickr
Labels: auguste escoffier, getting paid, getting published, vidal sassoon, virginia woolf