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A Writer's Reward
September 1, 2000

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This morning I got my mail, as I often do. (Actually, folks often pick it up at the bookstore postal station for me, since I'm not currently going over there for lunch. So it was sitting on my chair when I got in. Which may be too much information.) And sitting in the middle of it was a quick note from Steve Jackson Games, the company I wrote the RPG supplement section for. In Nomine, you recall.

Well, it wasn't really a note. It was a check. For quite a bit more money than I'd ever gotten for writing before.

Oh, it wasn't a lot of money. Role Playing Game companies aren't rich, and there are very few game designers who can make a living off of what they can be paid. But still -- it was a good chunk of change for the writing business. A professional level chunk of change for it, in fact. And that makes your head spin.

I remember reading an essay by Larry Niven (I think), about the first professional paycheck he received. The gist of the essay was "you know you're a writer -- really a writer -- when you get a piece of paper with three things on it: 'pay to the order of,' your name, and a number higher than a decent dinner would cost.'

That's me, today. I'm a writer. Really a writer. I got paid enough to buy that recliner I've been wanting, or to buy a Tivo, or to buy a Playstation 2 and other sundries, or to buy a few months of the supplement I drink, or....

You get the point (even though I'm just tossing the check into the bank and letting it sit). Above and beyond my own working salary, I've just received enough money for something nice, plus extra. And that's a bloody good feeling.

Now, even though this was a pretty good paycheck for writing, it's really a novelty. Until I get to the stage when I'm regularly receiving checks for creative work -- enough that I have to really worry about saving enough out to pay the self employment taxes incurred (and trust me, you want to save enough to do that. I learned that when I was a struggling actor instead of a struggling writer) -- then I'm mostly doing this for two reasons. 1) I love writing. I just love it. Why do you think I put digital ink to digital paper in this thing (when I don't take a month off like last month)? I like it. 2) Cachet. As a friend of mine once noted, most writers really enjoy being able to call themselves writers. To be able to walk with that swagger, at least among the cognoscenti, who know what they've written and where. And while I don't write for cachet, I certainly understand the impulse.

Either way, I find myself inordinately excited about receiving this paycheck. I'm a writer. I write, and I get paid for it. Paid pretty decently, too. By writers' standards, at least. And when I deposit this chunk of change, I'm going to be sad to see the check go.

But not too sad... I could find a second hand chair and still have a good amount in the bank....

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