For the second year in a row, I’ve earned enough money as a freelancer to pay taxes. Despite the unending paperwork that goes along with working five different part time jobs and the inevitable loss of wages to Uncle Sam, the collection of “Miscellaneous Income” forms piling up on my desk fills makes me smile. Amateurs don’t pay taxes; real writers do.
I can still remember the first time I earned enough as a professional dancer to pay taxes. It was exciting, validating, and even though it only happened once (and came as a rather rude awakening), it was a proud moment.
Just before I left for Miami, I received an envelope from a magazine editor containing my latest set of contributor’s copies. The first time I received such an envelope, I nearly lost my mind. I was in my senior year of college and had never seen my byline in a real magazine before. Even though the magazine wasn’t particularly well known, I spent all day with a stupid grin on my face, prompting my roommate to run across campus and get her camera.
When the editor called a few minutes later to ask if I had received “the check,” I really lost it. I was so green in those days that I hadn’t even thought to ask about compensation before signing the contract. I knew that the magazine only had a small freelance budget and assumed that this would never be wasted on me, a mere 21-year old without so much as a single journalism course under her belt, but you know what they say about assuming things…
My immediate reaction was, “OMG! You’re going to pay me? Not only did you publish my piece in your magazine but you’re going to pay me for it???”
Fortunately, I wasn’t so green as to verbalize this reaction.
“Not yet,” I replied coolly. “But I’ll let you know when I do.”
A few days later I received a check for $500. For a while, this remained my most significant accomplishment as a freelancer. But then, during grad school, I got an email from an editor asking me to profile a well-known choreographer; once again, I nearly had a heart attack.
Over the years, each addition to my portfolio has come with conniptions of the minor and not-so-minor varieties. Judging by my reactions you’d think I’d just found the cure to cancer or won the lottery, but no: it’s just a pile of magazines dropped through the mail slot—magazines that contain my name.
Last week’s delivery, however, was different. I just smiled and tucked one copy into my portfolio and one into a plastic file folder for safe keeping.
So far as men are concerned, my growing nonchalance is actually starting to frighten me—shouldn’t love be exciting?— but with writing (indeed, with any creative endeavor that involves years of angst before the hope of financial return becomes even remotely possible), it’s the total opposite. I’m not worried about my lackluster reaction to last week’s delivery, in fact, I’m rather proud of myself because skipping down the sidewalk over a simple byline in a trade magazine is not the behavior of a successful writer.
As for PSM#2, I responded to his query (What’s it gonna take for me to see your blog?) with a rather cheeky, “ I don’t know… maybe give me something to new write about?” Here’s hoping he does.