If you want to get fur flying (or at least a spirited discussion going) in a writer’s group, ask the Million Dollar Question:
“Should a writer allow his or her work to be published
without receiving monetary compensation for it?”
Very quickly, two camps emerge: Those who are trying to pay the bills with their craft, and those who write for reasons that are less tangible, but (at least to them) just as less important: serving God and His Church, or cultivating a “writer’s platform” – a consistent readership that demonstrates to prospective publishers an author’s ability to market his or her own books. Still other writers are simply trying to hone their skills, or express their views on a particular issue.
Much of the time, I tend to fall in the second category – as do many people who publish their work online, either on blogs or websites such as Catholic Exchange. Our labors are rewarded with something less tangible than a paycheck. The payoff varies from one individual to the next. Most days I consider writing a form of ministry; and yet, part of me enjoys other “perks” as well: seeing how many (and/or what kind) of comments are posted in response to an article, how many (and whose) blogs have me on their blogroll, or how much traffic my blogs generate.
This kind of sleuthing can backfire: Occasionally I’ll scan the blogroll of a site I visit regularly and obsess over why my blog isn’t listed on their blogroll – and feel as though I’m in high school all over again, upset at not being invited to the “right” parties. (A friend of mine – who is listed on almost every Catholic blogroll I’ve ever encountered – wisely counseled me to concentrate on producing good-quality content, and the rest would come in time.)
Sometimes my writer’s angst manifests itself on a more pragmatic level. Like many freelance writers, I depend on a handful of long-term clients, from which I generate most of my income. The other day I panicked when it looked as though I might lose one of my larger clients due to budget cuts. As I took stock of the situation, I began to wonder if I had been unwise to put so many eggs in one basket – if it had truly been God’s will, rather than my own, that I invest so much of my time this way. Happily, the situation resolved itself in my favor … but still I wondered if it might be wise to diversify my time more, so I wasn’t so dependent on that particular source of income.
As I pondered the situation (“praying about it” would be stretching it a bit), I noticed an e-mail from a second client – someone who had used my services regularly a few years back, but stopped when he was promoted to a different position within the organization. He wanted to check on the status of an invoice for a project I had done for them two years ago, generating fees of nearly two thousand dollars. It turned out that my computer system had switched over around that time, and I’d lost track of that particular invoice. He promised to process the payment immediately.
I could feel a gentle tap on my heart as I tapped out a quick e-mail of thanks to the editor. See? You don’t have to worry, that still small voice reminded me. You just keep doing your best work where I’ve planted you, and leave the finances to me.
Throughout the Gospels, we read of men and women who were given certain talents and held accountable – for better or worse – for how they used those talents. Those who hid the talents in the ground were chastised; those who used their talents to the best of their ability were blessed with their Master’s favor. While this spiritual principle does not always translate into a steady stream of cash, this much is certain: The Master we serve has promised that, if we are faithful, He will supply all our needs.
Do you have a “way with words” that you would like to develop? Are you interested in learning more about the publishing industry – how it works, and how you can be a part of it? Or would you simply like to learn more about current communication technologies – blogs and podcasts and virtual booktours? Join us for the first annual Catholic Writer’s Conference Online, hosted by the Catholic Writer’s Guild and “Canticle” Magazine. The conference, which will be held May 2-9 and conducted entirely on the Internet, is free of charge – but registration is required. For more information or to register, click here.