March 14th, 2011

A freelancer has no set schedule. Projects turn up here and there — they’re offered to you, or (if you’re less fortunate) you go looking for them. In my non-fiction writing life, there is more work available than there are hours in a day, so whenever a new project comes up, there are questions to be asked: When does it start? How long will it last? How many hours a week will it take? What does it pay? How difficult is it? At least, those are the questions I’ve always asked. But recently I thought of a new one.

A publisher I’d worked with before called me up. “Are you available in April?” she asked. “I have a project I think would be perfect for you.”

“Is it more fun than porn?” I asked.

A short silence.

“Excuse me?”

“Well, I’ve started writing erotica. I’m really enjoying it, and I’d like to write more of it. But of course it takes time…”

This is a woman in her 60’s, very sharp and experienced, a no-nonsense “New York” sort of person. Top of her field. She sounded a bit worried. “Well, we really need someone with X qualifications” [here she rattled off a list that sounded like it had been stripped straight from my resume] “so naturally I thought of you…”

A pause.

“I don’t know. Do you think it sounds ‘fun’ enough for you?”

“Well, possibly… what does it pay?”

“Oh, right. Erotica pays well, does it?”

“Well, you know what they say — the recession-proof businesses all involve liquor or sex,” I said, neatly avoiding the question.

“Can we meet in person next week to discuss it?”

And so we arranged to do so. I’m pretty sure I’ll take the job — it does sound right up my alley, and I’m sure it pays better than writing erotica, at least for me.

Am I the only one who gets tired sometimes of hearing, “Do what you love and the money will follow”? There’s some truth to that, certainly — especially if you love things like tax law, structural engineering, or dentistry more than you love yoga, childcare, teaching, or… writing fiction.

Some fiction writers make money, of course; and those are often the ones we hear about when someone says “writer.” But there are plenty of writers out there, good writers, who can’t make a living out of it, or not much of one. They might work other jobs, or share expenses with a spouse or other type of partner.

I think it’s more accurate to say, “Do what you love, and you’ll wind up loving what you do. Which may or may not pay.” However, that is an important consideration. I am fortunate enough that some of my writing, the non-fiction part, does pay the bills. Once they’re paid, though, I want a bit of fun. Perhaps when I’ve written (and sold) more erotica, it will pay more, to the point where I can devote more time to writing it, and it will spiral slowly up. Or it may not. It may remain an outlet for creativity, for playfulness, for enjoyment–for fun, in other words. And that’s important. If I don’t schedule time for fun, fun is going to get shoved aside.

Therefore, I’m going to take fun into consideration now, with all the other factors, when I consider how to spend my work time.

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This entry was posted on Monday, March 14th, 2011 at 5:36 pm and is filed under • Is It More Fun Than Porn?. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

11 Responses to “Is It More Fun Than Porn?”

Elizabeth Daniels Says:

I loved the evasion. Way to bargain!

It’s a good question to ask. I’ve never thought ‘Do what you love and the money will follow’ is accurate. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, ‘Do what you love and your life will be enriched.’

It doesn’t pay the bills, true. Sometimes, though, you have to strike that balance.

Savannah Chase Says:

I know that being an author will not make me rich but honestly that is not why I do it. All I want to do is write and if I make money great and if I don’t than still great. I’m doing what I love. Yes I would like to make some money but I know that I won’t be swimming in cash. For me I get to create and express myself in my work and that is what makes me happy.

Shar Says:

Exactly, Savannah. Because after all, there’s no guarantee that if you went only for money that you’d wind up with the fulfillment. We don’t need to be swimming (although we do still need “enough”).

Elizabeth, I like that word — “enriched.” By more (or other) than literal riches. I wonder how often we forget to negotiate for that, at least in our “regular” work. I guess by “we” of course I really mean “I.” I think this is really the first time I’ve said “entertain me” as well as “pay me” to a job offer.

Jeremy Edwards Says:

I can just see your interlocutor running her eyes frantically over her specs sheet, looking for the “more fun than porn?” yes/no line.

Shar Says:

Jeremy, perhaps it will start a new trend… now, when they sit around with the five-year publishing plan, choosing and approving new projects, they’ll ask themselves at the outset: “Now, is this going to be more fun than porn?”

Gregory Allen Says:

Sometimes you end up not loving what you do for pay. Didn’t Einstein think physics was something that should be done in one’s spare time, and so he discovered the theory of relativity while working as a patent clerk? If it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. It’s nice to get a little compensation for all the time I’ve put into writing, but I think there would be a lot of pitfalls to earning a living through writing. I have a day job that pays all my bills, and that makes writing fun and rewarding in ways it might not be if I needed to do it to eat. Success means readers and I’ll take all the readers I can get, but I’ll bet it would come with some baggage, too.

Fulani Says:

Wonderful story. Must use that line myself sometime! Porn does at least pay some of my bills… an increasing amount as more of my stuff comes out, in fact…

Monica Says:

I’ve wondered about that “Do what you love and the money will follow” phrase as well, and when I think about that, I think about the countless of writers who do what they love, but struggle financially. But after reading what you wrote and others have commented on, I’ve concluded to agree with the apt quote of, “Do what you love and your life will be more enriched and fulfilled”. I think the initial quote is probably more suitable for those who’ve actually made a living doing what they love. Unfortunately, it’s not applicable to everyone.

dr tan Says:

people is driven by sex to procreate and have fun

tha’s why we are here SEX

Graydancer Says:

“Is it more fun than porn?” should be on t-shirts. Bumper stickers. Buttons. Large dancing elephants traipsing down main street in every city.

In my case it wasn’t so much fiction writing as podcasting, but I found the same thing. I am not richer monetarily because of my podcast, but the connections, experiences, and opportunities (many of which were and are lucrative) that it brought me have been incalculable. And I mean that both in fiscal and strategic terms – I could not have planned the success that has come to me from simply doing what I love.

Perhaps that’s the problem with the phrase. It doesn’t need a conjunction. Just “Do what you love.” Because frankly, these days even doing what you don’t love has no guarantee of paying, and if you do what you love, well, hey, then you love what you’re doing.

Shar Says:

Weirdly, you have the distinction of being the first — as least, as far as I know! — legitimate comment to go to my spam folder. Sorry about that! But here you are back out in the light. (Good thing I was skimming my spam folder for Other Purposes, and found you there.)

That particular company’s project turned out to be so Utterly Less Fun Than Porn (or a root canal) that I turned it down in the end. Oh well! I’m doing something else for them instead. That is one bright light in the life of a freelancer: the ability to turn projects down. Because there are always more out there.

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