Turning Whine Into Gold
It’s true: after years of growing to trust the blogging team here at WITS, someone is finally going to spill the bean-counter’s beans. Read on, because there’s more to getting rich than this sure-fire technique:
Write major selling points in their own paragraphs—in red!
Among the top ten reasons people seek publication for their work is the possibility of making some real money at this gig. After all, you have worked so hard. (And so have so many others, but it is not expedient to think about them just now.) Your friends think you can do it. (They also thought you could be a cowboy or a firefighter, two other high-income occupations, but it’s not expedient to think about that just now, either.) The riches will go to someone, so why not you?
Waiting for your bestseller royalty check to auto-deposit. This is the American Dream.
Or is it? If we’re being realistic, a “financial score” in today’s publishing world pales in comparison to pre-2008 values. Hey, I wish it were different. But the market has spoken, and when the budget is tight, most people value a double-shot soy mocha latte over a book purchase.
When such economic realities get you down, turn to these standards of wealth that the bean counters forget to measure. I want you to rest assured:
You’ve already been getting richer from your writing.
Let us count the ways:
This isn’t the first consideration for many introverted writers, but it is one of my favorites. My writing friends think about life deeply, they feel deeply. They are my kin—and yet each of us notices different aspects of the human condition and filters it through different predispositions. Color me jazzed.
I feel certain Dr. Suess was speaking of writers when he titled his children’s book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! There are any number of exotic places I may not have visited if it weren’t for my writing. Lest you think Maui and Hudson, Ohio are not equally exotic, I beg to differ. A curious mind will find fascinating, quaint, rich detail wherever it goes.
Reading, films, concerts, lectures, theater, museums—these are all ways to escape the keyboard, to learn and refresh. Yet once my mind is deep into a new project, the culture with which I interact makes a personal and necessary contribution. As the scrawled notes on my collection of church bulletins and programs would attest, these experiences become a way to enrich and stimulate the creative mind.
Tme spent alone can improve relationships by forcing you to set boundaries. Writing time is you time—and especially for married women with children, this is an important precedent to set. Your writing puts needed reserves into your patience account, and much-needed interest into your personality account that you can withdraw to engage loved ones who may have previously assumed that you fold laundry and clean all day. I’ll never forget those years, drafting my practice novel, when my teen would come home from the bus stop, perch on one of the deep windowsills in my office, and ask, “So Mom, what is happening with Autumn today?”
In her book Wired for Story, Lisa Cron says scientists have shown our brains light up as if the events in our novels are happening to us. Frugality alert: this is cheaper than a cocaine habit, and ends better. Plus, in our fraught political climate, any investment that adds to our emotional assets is a bonus.
Most storytellers write to discover what we do not yet know, and we do that through our characters. Mine live within me beyond the end of the novel. More than once I’ve thought, “What would Marty Kandelbaum do in this situation?” On one hand these are friends of convenience—they were born of thoughts and needs and quandaries specific to a certain time in your life—but they also taught you lessons that you will never forget.
If a writing life is the American Dream, how does it benefit us as Americans? We writers are the Good Samaritans or problem solving. When we hear of others who are butting up against conundrums that stop them in their tracks, we writers say, “Cool!”—then steal their shoes and walk around in them until we’ve replotted the story and shared a lesson in doing so.
By these seven measures, your life is already so much richer because of writing. So here’s my advice:
To get even richer, go do more of that.
Please share in the comments: Besides money (because bragging will just make the rest of us feel bad), how has writing made you rich?
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Kathryn Craft is the award-winning author of two novels from Sourcebooks, The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy, and a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft. Her chapter “A Drop of Imitation: Learn from the Masters” was included in the writing guide Author in Progress, from Writers Digest Books. Janice Gable Bashman’s interview with her, “How Structure Supports Meaning,” originally published in the 2017 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, has been reprinted in The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, both from Writer’s Digest Books.
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