The Writing Life

The Writing Life


Getting Paid to Write


I was once a minor-league opera singer, and I still like to perform occasionally. Last summer I had some lessons with a famous singer. When it came time to pay him, and I asked him how much, he gave a price that was lower than I’d expected, saying sheepishly, “That seems to be what people are charging.” Curious, I thought.


The next time we met, I took out the folded-up check for the same amount from my shirt pocket, and he said I could “just put it right there” as he indicated the corner of the grand piano in his studio. He didn’t want to be seen touching the filthy lucre given for such a thing as art. Again, curious.


This attitude about money doesn’t just apply to voice teachers (and this particular one is of the caliber that likely commands more than $10,000-$30,000 per performance).


It applies to (almost) all artists. In fact, it applies to (almost) all everything. Why does it embarrass us to get paid? It’s because we don’t understand that the thing we’re making adds value for whom we’re making it.


As for me, I have no qualms about it. I expect to pay for something I value, and I expect to get paid for something valuable I create.


Except for this miraculously free newsletter!


(If you must know, I expect this to pay off at some point. Not that I’ll charge you, of course.)




The Fear of Standing Out


One of the major limitations of imagination’s fruits is the fear of standing out. It is more than a fear of criticism. It is anxiety at being alone, of being in a position where one can rely little on others, a position that puts one’s own resources to the test, a position where one will have to take total responsibility for one’s own response to the environment. Leaders must not only not be afraid of that position; they must come to love it. (p. 257)

The Failure of Nerve, Edwin Friedman




In Rick Rubin’s book, The Creative Act, A Way of Being, he says,


Living life as an artist is a practice.

You are either engaging in the practice, or you’re not.


It makes no sense to say you’re not good at it.

It’s like saying, “I’m not good at being a monk.” You are either living as a monk, or you’re not.


We tend to think of the artist’s work as the output.


The real work of the artist is a way of being in the world. P47


Change “artist” to “writer” and read it again.


Writing Inspiration


You, the Writer in Three Years


Everyone can write, and anyone can write better with practice. What if I could show you your writing after three years of deliberate practice?


I’ve taught a writing cohort for the last ten months, and it’s fairly astounding to see how each and every member has improved simply by writing almost every day.


It makes me wonder just how far someone could go. I might dare to look back at my early projects to see how bad I was when I started writing for cash. I might.


My guess is it will be worse than I think. I hope that in three years, I look at my writing from today and think the same thing because I hope to improve that much.


I hope in three years, you will look back on your writing today and think it’s awful, because I hope you will undertake a course of deliberate practice between now and then. You know, just to see what you could become.


What I’m Reading About Writing




But I did watch a YouTube podcast that was truly helpful this week: David Perell interviews billionaire investor Howard Marks on simplifying complicated ideas.


What I’m Reading About Everything Else


The Art of Impossible by Stephen Kotler 


This book goes deep into the science of peak performance. The big idea is that there is a four-step process for ultra-high performance in any area:


  1. Motivation

  2. Learning

  3. Creativity

  4. Flow


You should know by now that I love flow!


Other articles you might like

Scroll to Top