Remember your first paycheck? Not babysitting, lawn mowing or snow shoveling money but an actual paycheck, with a company’s name on it, signed by someone you didn’t know. Waiting tables, running a cash register, store clerk, sweeping the floor of a beauty salon or boat cleaning, the last two were my kids’ first jobs, that paycheck, the one which legitimized you as actually employed. Yup, that one, what a kick.
I was a sales clerk at E.J Korvette’s discount department store in St. Louis, Missouri. My department, men’s haberdashery (habo). I told everyone I worked in men’s underwear. Even then I thought I was funny. It was a temporary summer job between my first two years of college.
I wanted to be an investigative curator in fine arts. Authenticating real from fake was my dream. I wanted to be the one to tell you that your Picasso or Pollach was not trash but worth tens of millions.
Little did I know, that though I would continue my education, I would never graduate from college and that my temporary job would lead to retail employment half way around the world. Eventually lowly retail had me taking on store management, district management, and soul proprietorship of two retail establishments. All of that eased me into the start-up and management of a manufacturing company, that I would still be the CEO of today, if illness had not pulled the rug out from under my role as owner.
All those years, all those experiences, successes, feelings of joy and satisfaction, related to a job well done, can in no way compare to what I felt after receiving my first paycheck for writing.
August 14, 1988, $60.00 for 600 words in one paper and $75.00 for 700 words in a another paper, different subject, yes two on the same day. I swelled with pride and felt a kind of validation I had never felt before.
Over the years I have been paid many times for articles, op-eds and other journalistic pieces and during those same years I have written thousands upon thousands of words which have been published in newspapers, magazines and on-line and I have not-been-paid-a-dime.
Being published is wonderful, being paid is better. Compliments, adoration and respect are everything, but when someone actually pays you for what races across your synapses and onto paper, that is validation, pure and uncomplicated.
Many a writer will spend years writing, a lifetime maybe, and not make a cent. Many more will write, get published and still not make any money. Are they any less a writer?
If publication is what you want, it is out there as long as you learn, listen and heed.
I am an essayist, still authenticating real from fake, an op-ed writer, the kind of word monger who rips off her clothes, I leave my underwear on, and shares what I am about.
A while back, I spent ten years writing fiction, unpublished. At times the effort broke my heart and yet, I learned, I listened and I heeded.
I learned long-form.
I listened to the experts.
I heeded the most important advice thrown my way.
At the end of a miserable day of dealing with rejection one-hundred something regarding novel number two, I stopped querying novel number one after my hundredth rejection, I told my youngest daughter I was, stick a fork in me, done with writing.
“Go back to what you know.” She said. I did and became a columnist.
If you are struggling, stop. Examine your form, your genre. Are you writing what you read, what you love, what you know, what you are good at? Do you share, do you listen to feedback and comments and do you heed what the industry and your heart is telling you.