"What If The Money Didn't Matter?"
That's the question my husband asked me recently as I pondered my next big writing project.
I'm blessed to have already made it in my art field. I have success: accomplishments, clients, and projects I can be proud of, opportunities to share and grow, creative engagements, incredible colleagues in this industry - many to whom I gave their starts - and an income. What more could a working writer want? I have immeasurable gratitude for these things that I never take for granted. Truly, I am prayerful with thanks for them every day.
Quick Writer's Brainstorm: Jot Down Three Things That Make You Feel Grateful!
I remember when I ran my publishing company (sold and rebranded in 2017 to the still active Nico 11 Publishing & Design). I had fallen into this pattern of growth for the sake of growth. It's what business owners are supposed to do. While producing more than ever, though, I was feeling less and less joy for the work that was being finished. Not that the work wasn't good, but I wasn't sure why I was doing so much when there were other times in my past that a single project with unsure income delighted me . . . now a dozen and a pipeline did not.
'Wasn't this the big writing dream?'
'Wasn't I the picture of an artist's destination?'
Selling the company to my then Head of Publishing (Mike Nicloy) and spending these last two years growing in a deeply trusted strategic partnership with him after I went independent again has been a wonderful and fulfilling experience. I can't tell you the joy I get when I can refer him to someone in need of a publisher or cover designer. I love having somebody I can trust and with whom I can discuss the industry in the jargon and language that the two of us know. Meanwhile, I was free to go after projects that didn't have to suffice for paying a full team's paychecks.
I love teaching, coaching, and leading other writers and authors.
I find my creative stores overflow when I'm able to do these things and, while in the muck of running a business, they are the types of things I often had to shelve.
So, I filled up on those projects once more and since I was no longer supporting a team and office space - I even took a significant pay cut.
Quick Writer's Brainstorm: Jot Down Three Things That Fill Your Creative Stores!
I felt good about myself, but part of me knew what I was "worth" based on my experience and knowledge, so I had resentments creep in subconsciously when I found myself pouring in additional hours, days, or weeks on projects. Additional energy, additional steps, and additional offerings became commonplace because they were what was best for the projects. All of these "gifts" became additional resentments.
I didn't even know it was happening, to be honest, but I found myself doing the math on some of those discounted projects or value adds and discovered that I was making about $2.00 an hour. (The fact that I was doing the mental math proved that the resentment was there.) Then - I even allowed my biggest client to skip out on a payment completely because I just didn't feel like going after it and continuing to explain all that had been given, all that I had helped to grow, all that this client had in income as a result of my work. I ultimately cleared about $1.05 an hour on my work for that client. Of course I felt cheap and used! How could I feel anything else?
It wasn't the client's fault, though; it was mine.
The original intent of my discount for the work and the above and beyond scope things I provided were because I believed in what we were doing, knew I had a lot to bring, and being needed for my unique knowledge and gifts was fulfilling to me. I didn't recognize the lack of appreciation that was building up in me based on values and worths that I myself had set up. It was a homemade recipe for disappointment and - yes - resentment. These feelings became gaping holes in my creative stores. All that had been added, was drained.
Quick Writer's Brainstorm: Jot Down Three Things That Drain Your Creative Stores!
With this experience, of course I didn't feel very encouraged when my husband asked his question:
"What If The Money Didn't Matter?"
'I've been there!' I thought. 'I got used! I felt resentment! It sucked!' I voiced a simple, "I don't know. That didn't work when I was with 'that one client.'"
"No," he said. "It's always been about the money. It was either about making more money, or giving away some monetary value even when you weren't getting the actual money. You still kept track." (Darn it! I hate when he's right!) "I mean, what if there was NO money? What if you really were just using your gifts and skills? What could you do? How would you feel? Who would you work with? What projects would you want to tackle?"
So . . . I thought about it. This was a new and different question.
I thought about the joy of completing my first book, long before I understood the publishing industry, much less had a publisher of my own lined up.
I thought about the hugs and high-fives I got from children when I did my first (FREE) school programs.
I thought about the personal worth that came from friends asking for industry advice.
I realized, in all that thinking, that the money I made as a writer was never the treasure I stored up as one. And, in fact, whether below or above my job's "worth," the money for my art always contributed to negative feelings. When I wrote my very first completed works, I did so because I just had to tell those stories. Sometimes, I wrote things that were only shared with one other person who I thought needed to hear those words. I told stories and had play-readings and scribbled out random thoughts just because I liked the words. In all of those cases of joy, the money didn't matter.
Since my husband asked me that question, I've had the opportunity to have conversations and coffees with people who just wanted to know a little more about next steps with their written or spoken words. I have had the joy of looking over and even editing short works. The exchanges have been sincere and without pressure. The results have been joyous. And, while I imagine I'll continue to be a working writer for many years, I feel grateful to be back to my roots . . . not just the roots of the tasks I love about writing, but also the roots of the reasons for writing. Because, at the beginning, and again in this new chapter, the money doesn't matter.
So, let me ask you . . .
"What If The Money Didn't Matter?"
I did a quick Google Search on the highest paying jobs in the U.S. and I realized that there is not one single job on that List of the Top 25 Highest-Paying Jobs that I actually would want to do. NOT ONE! When it comes to work, then, I realize that it can't be about the money.
What is it about for you?
Quick Writer's Brainstorm: Jot Down Three Things (NOT Money) That Drive Your Creativity!
And, inspired by my husband's hard-hitting question, consider answering for yourself the following:
What if you really were just using your gifts and skills?
What could you do?
How would you feel?
Who would you work with?
What projects would you want to tackle?
Yours in writing (regardless of the money),