Everybody likes free stuff. Keychains, visors, bags, bobbleheads, burritos. Free stuff always seems like a great idea.
At the time.
It’s usually later, when the rush of FREE has worn off, that you realize you have a bunch of junk sitting around and you don’t remember where it came from or why you ever thought you needed it in the first place. (Unless we’re talking about the free burrito, in which case you probably deserve whatever you’re suffering from because, come on man.)
The crazy thing is that even if The Free Thing really is something cool and valuable, we have a tendency to hold it in disregard because, I mean let’s face it, we got it for free after all.
If you’d asked me a decade ago if I would’ve liked to have sold my very first screenplay for $600k, I would’ve said yes absolutely thank you very much. And I would’ve thought I was really something special and that writing was super easy and I probably would’ve blown all that cash on a lottery tickets because think about how much richer you could be if you won the lottery!
But ask me now that I’m older and wiser, and I would say
UHH ARE YOU KIDDING ME GIMME THEM DOLLARS!
Because I’m not an idiot. And I would’ve taken your money and laughed at you behind your back, and you would’ve deserved it, because man that screenplay was pretty terrible.
But that’s all besides the point. Which is to say, if I were paying an editor you likely wouldn’t have read any of that. Which is to say, if you’d like this blog to be improved, you are more than welcome to send me large sums of cash, and if we reach a particular tipping point I might very well hire an editor to Cut Out the Nonsense and Get On to the Good Stuff. The likely result of which would be that instead of all the clever, friendly, and good-looking people that hang out around here, this blog would be entirely peopled by tumbleweeds, cricket chirps, and empty blog posts.
The honorary doctorate is nice, but chances are you wouldn’t want one in your operating room. “I’ve never actually done heart surgery you know, but I have done an awful lot of writing and speaking about the importance of heart healthiness, which Prestigious Institution of Higher Learning thought was awfully commendable, so I have this degree now, and I think we should all be fine! Except maybe you.”
Paying for something out of your own pocket makes you an active participant in a meaningful transaction. There is dignity in having paid the price. We tend to respect and admire the man or woman who clawed from poverty to build an empire; the lazy son of inherited wealth less so.
Often They refer to it as “Paying Your Dues”. But when They say it, They tend to make it sound like some sort of unnecessary hoop you just have to jump through for the sake of entertaining others. But the Real Dues to Be Paid aren’t the artificial ones others impose upon you … the dues that matter are the ones you pay to yourself, in the wee hours of the morning full of writing when you’d rather be sleeping, or during the lunch breaks full of exercise when you’d rather be filling your gullet with red meat and seven kinds of cheeses. Mmm, cheeses.
Because those are the dues that you will recall when you stand up on stage to receive All the Awards, and they are the ones that will remind you, by golly, you DO deserve All the Awards, and it’s not just some mistake or someone else’s charity.
Paying the cost is a necessary part of gaining ownership. And ownership my friends, ah yes, that’s where the magic is. Because when you have poured out the sweat and blood and tears to see That Work Accomplished, then you have won something no one can take away from you, no matter what they say about your pretentious blog posts or the fact that you don’t update it nearly as often as you should.