Thirty-five years ago, I received my first check for a piece of writing. The Peru Tribune paid me five bucks for a sweet little piece about my grandmother’s Indiana farm. It was hokey as hell. But they printed it. And they paid me.
That’s the big dream of a lot of writers–to be able to earn enough money pursuing the muse to be able to pursue the muse. Such a small proportion of writers actually hit that mark that–well, Han Solo was right. Never tell me the odds.
Since then I’ve had articles and fiction printed in publications small and large, national distribution, some of them. One book in print, two stories coming out in Cup of Comfort book editions in the next year. All of which I’ve been paid for. Not enough to give up my day job by a long shot.
Fellow writers are confused about my devotion to my blog and my Firefox news writing as they don’t come with a direct paycheck. (Well, the Firefox gig pays with a share of ad revenue, but only as a result of clicks on the Google ads on the page. If no one clicks, then…nada.) Why waste your time publishing what doesn’t pay? You should concentrate on the works-in-progress that have monetary potential, they say.
I put some thought into this at the end of last year, when I created the blog. It was fairly quickly apparent that I couldn’t collect ad revenue at a WordPress-hosted site, so I put the ad on my homepage. Not exactly making money hand over fist. At Firefox too, I might earn pennies a day. But is that all that matters?
Writers write, so readers can read.
Oh, sure, there’s the “something flows from inside of me and I must put it down on paper, else I shall simply burst!” part. But none of that applies to a check, either. We write so others will read what we write. By this process, we share something special.
My Wordpress blog has been accessed some 13,000-plus times. Of course, those aren’t all discrete readers–I hope at least one or two people stop more than once! But in about nine months, that’s about 1,400 times a month someone has read my words.
I totalled up the Firefox hits the other day–since I started writing for that site five months ago, I’ve had over 37,000 separate hits on my stories. Those are much more likely not to be the same folks over and over, just because of their fanbase. So between the two, I’ve had someone read my words some 50,000 times this year.
Sure, I keep writing the other, the novels, the short stories, the travelogues, hoping they’ll catch the eye of an editor or agent somewhere, so that I can invest in my pursuit shoes. In the meantime, there’s 50,000 people who have read what I’ve written, people from all over the country–maybe all over the world.
These may not have “paid,” in the way so many of us would like to be. But I’ve got to believe the words have paid off, in the way that has been true since the first storytellers began, in the connection of one person to another, an idea that sparks from one mind to the next, changing both people, even in some small way, forever.
Causes Barbara Mountjoy Supports
Human Rights Campaign