Pay the Writer — Harlan Ellison Speaks!
I’ve been reading a lot lately about the difficulties of getting paid as a writer. Nate Thayer’s article about the Atlantic wanting him to publish on their site for free is of course a case in point. Things are changing in publishing!
Criticising Thayers’ position is this guy, a struggling freelance writer who finished college a few years ago and seems to think that writing is some kind of labor of Sisyphus. Of course, Nate Thayer has been around the block quite a few times, not to mention going to wartime Cambodia.
I count myself as very lucky because I make money writing. Just that puts me in the top 10% of writers worldwide (if not the top 1%). And I’m reminded of the Harlan Ellison video that Steven Pressfield brought to my attention. It’s called Pay the Writer. I like to watch it every couple of weeks just to remind me of the message:
Ellison hits the nail on the head: “I don’t take a piss without getting paid for it!”
As a writer (and in the rest of my life) I have two criteria for deciding to do something:
1) Is it bringing me joy?
2) Is somebody paying me for it?
If the answer to either question is yes, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll do it.
Steven Pressfield has written a couple of books about going pro as a writer, most notably The War of Art. He’s also written some damn good books about the ancient Greeks. Pressfield went through suffering the likes of which most of us could barely imagine before cashing his first check as a writer. Now, he’s an older gentleman, and a hero for a lot of us younger writers. Apparently, his model for making money as a writer is the same as mine:
1) Write things people will actually pay money to read.
2) Distribute directly to your audience by yourself.
Seems to be working so far.