I Wish I had a Deformed Cat
Yesterday I got curious and looked around the web to see how hard writing is for other people. When I worked for my law school paper, I saw people lock up when they were asked to write a couple of hundred words, and when I was blogging and dealing with bloggers who wanted to write books, I knew people who couldn’t get more than a few pages done. Clearly, my situation is not like that.
On the web I saw people talking about the goal of writing a few hundred or a thousand words per day. It was like they were talking about learning to run ten miles per day; they seemed to consider it difficult enough to make achieving the goal unlikely.
This Saturday, I cranked out something like 3000 words just to relax. If I had to write 4000 per day as a 40-hour job, I would think nothing of it. I once wrote a 48-page legal brief in a day. I believe it was 48. Anyway, it was over 40. It made the judge mad. It was too long.
I wonder what the purpose of this facility is. The fact that you have an ability doesn’t mean you know what to do with it.
Whenever I’m with my dad, and we hear Rush Limbaugh on the radio, my dad says the same thing: he can’t believe a person can talk for three hours a day without running dry. Someone who used to have a radio show once complained to me about this. Apparently, this person dreaded having to come up with material.
It wouldn’t be a problem for me. There is always something to say or write. Life is a constant flow of experiences, insights, and ideas. You can’t say you lack stimulation.
You can’t choose your talents. If I had been given a choice, I would have held onto writing, but I would have traded cooking for something else. I have really enjoyed cooking extraordinary food, but it’s not an important gift. It’s trivial. And you can’t use it all the time. I get up every day and eat the same boring stuff: homemade vegetable soup. I almost never cook anything good for lunch. I grab a protein bar or a sandwich. If I really cooked, I would weigh 400 pounds, and it would slice two hours out of every day.
I am fairly good at a number of things, but the older I get, the more it looks like writing and cooking are the only areas where I really shine. It’s like being good at theoretical physics and tiddly winks. One gift that can have an impact on the world, and another which is more or less a novelty.
I envy people who have gifts that guarantee them a livelihood. Songwriters, in particular. If you write one hit song, you can retire. Even if you go into a coma right after you publish it, the money will continue coming in, and your heirs will also be able to benefit from the copyright.
Doctors are also fortunate. Their incomes may wax and wane, but no one will ever tell a doctor his job has been rendered obsolete. And doctors are welcome everywhere. Back when Haiti was in an uproar over the earthquake, people I knew were going there as volunteers, but I stayed here. I figured the Haitians could do anything I could do, just as well, except for practicing law. What was I supposed to do over there with my legal skills? Sue people? If I had been a doctor, I would have flown over and made myself useful. There would have been a purpose in it.
I can write, but cashing in on it is not that easy. I got some silly books published, but they did not make me rich. I have worked as a copywriter, but that kind of work comes and goes. I used to write for a newspaper magazine, but even if I had done that full-time, I would have pocketed a maximum of $800 a month.
To sell books, you have to write books people want. There has to be a waiting market. That’s not hard if you write novels; people will always want something to kill time on airplanes. But other types of books are harder to sell. And of course, editors are buried in complete garbage. People who absolutely cannot write refuse to stop sending their horrible manuscripts, so it’s hard to rise above the noise.
It’s not easy to cash in on cooking, either. Restaurants are a nightmare to run. There is a ton of regulation. There are piles of paperwork. You have to deal with cooks and waiters, who are right up there with musicians when it comes to honesty and responsibility. You have to deal with things that are totally unrelated to good cooking. Then when you get the business running, you gross $3 million per year and take home $30,000, working 15-hour days, six days a week. And even if your food is great, the public may simply get tired of it.
Lots of people get rich in the restaurant business, but you have to be a fool to risk your capital on it. Even with hard work and talent, it’s a lottery ticket.
I always hope God will arrange it so I will never have to practice law again. The responsibility is just too much, unless you’re the kind of person who doesn’t care. If I represent you one time, I am responsible to you for the rest of my life. And I can be sued for malpractice, at 90, for something I did when I was 40. The statute of limitations is short, but there are ways around it. In continuing legal education, I was taught that you should pay for malpractice insurance for as long as you live! How would you like to do that? You could easily pay out a third of what you earned in your career. Or you can trust your former clients to be nice to you. Yeah. That’s a sure thing.
The other day a friend asked me for legal advice, and I told him what I tell everyone: no way. I don’t care if they get mad. I’m not going to put myself in a position where I have to look over my shoulder for the next thirty years. Friends don’t sue friends, but then friends don’t stay friends, either. Former friends sue lawyers for malpractice every day.
Seriously, I think there is nothing like royalty income. You don’t have to manage property and be abused by tenants. You don’t have to buy and sell securities, risking a beating every time you trade. You don’t have to go to work. You can’t get fired. And copyright royalties are the best, because they never expire. Among copyright royalties, songwriting royalties are probably the best, because you don’t have to perform or promote, once a song gets noticed. You sit back and take money from other people. They do the performing. Their promoters do the promoting. You sit around at home, eating Cheetos.
Oh, well. I can write and I can cook. That’s how it is.
I could go ahead and write a book every three months and see what happens, but there’s a problem. I’m a Christian. You can’t just spew words out for money when God isn’t behind it. You have to wait for him. On top of that, what if I wrote a popular Christian book? Could I take money for that? If God gives you something for nothing, should you charge for it, especially when it’s possible to put it on the Internet and give it to billions of people free of charge?
You can say the laborer is worthy of his hire, but is that really apt, when you have almost no expenses? If you have to give up your job in order to serve God, you should be paid, but what if you don’t?
I think about that when I read Christian books. The writers have a conflict of interest: God versus Mammon.
Some books cost a lot of money to write, but most don’t. If I wrote a Christian book, it would cost me nothing, except for ISP fees. I wouldn’t have to travel or take photographs or pay for a cover design. Even before the Internet age, Paul wrote books, and all he did was dictate while someone scribbled. Worked out pretty well.
I should teach Marv to do something entertaining. Have you seen Grumpy Cat? I saw a news story that says he pulls in $50 million per year for his owners. God help those people if a dog gets him. I would keep him in a safe.
I won’t complain about what God gave me. It’s nice to be able to write, even if I have no idea what the value of it is. The cooking, I’ve pretty much given up on, but I will always want to communicate. And it’s going great guns. Like 50 people read this blog now.
I guess I’ve written enough; I’m procrastinating because I don’t want to study accounting. I better get in on it.
I’ll be back. You can count on that.