I DON’T JUDGE YOU BY HOW MUCH MONEY YOU MAKE
Given that I wrote a book that has “money” in the title (For Love or Money), I feel like I need to make that very clear. Also, the fact that we get constant (and I mean CONSTANT) messaging that money is a measure of the worth of someone (or of an activity), I feel the need to push back hard against that ethos.
I met an old acquaintance at the grocery store. We caught up on things, and it became clear that he was going through a mid-life crisis. The whole “is this all there is?” question. He has a successful business, and he likes it well enough, but he doesn’t love it. I encouraged him to take a sabbatical and discover what might be the thing he’s looking for—where the emptiness is and how to fill it. It might take several tries, but it was worth the journey.
I shared that I went through a years-long process of searching before I found writing. But now that I’ve found it, I’ve had an emotional and creative awakening like nothing in my life before that. I’m in love with it so much—and it’s so soul-satisfying—that I fully plan to die at the keyboard.
He said yeah, sure, maybe he could do business X instead of business Y because that wouldn’t be too different. He could easily make that work.
I don’t think he even heard what he said. (Or at least not the way I heard it: “I want something totally different, but I’m only willing to rotate the tires, not trade in for a new hot rod.”)
I told him not to fear starting over. (This is the point where he starts looking at me like I’m crazy as we’re standing next to the salad bar.) I said it was really difficult for me—I struggled with the idea that I was a PhD scientist starting over as a fledgling writer. I mean, who does that? A crazy person, right? But if I hadn’t been willing to risk it—hadn’t been willing to throw myself into learning something entirely new—then I wouldn’t be where I am today, with a new passion, a new vocation, something that’s going to give me soul-fulfilling work every day until my days are up.
He waved me off completely at that point because obviously I’m that lady he used to know and respect (I was on our local school board, so a lot of people “know and respect” me from that), but now I’d clearly taken a trip to Hippy Dippy Land. He starts going on about how there’s no way he could start over. No way he could give up what he’s got.
And all I could hear was… “I’m afraid to let go.”
So I told him I’m making way more money now than I ever did as an engineer (which, as it happens, is true).
THAT is when he starts to listen to me. THAT is when my story gained legitimacy. Not when I said, “My life was transformed and fulfilled” but when I said “I made even MOAR MONEY.”
That was also when I found an urgent need to get the rest of my groceries.
I won’t judge you by how much money you make (or don’t). I *will* judge you by how willing you are to crack open your heart (and mind). Not in an “I’m better than you” judgment, but in an assessment of whether you’re someone capable of finding the things you actually seek—the things that will fulfill you. Make your time on the planet worthwhile. Or whether you will end up on a deathbed made of regrets.
Making money as a writer is complicated by the fact that $=readers, and we all want to be read. But still… crack open your heart, take joy from your work, walk the path of creative awakening, and no matter how many readers partake of your creation, you’ve already won the game, my friend.