The Art of the Sell Out

I remember when I wrote my first story in the 3rd grade. This assignment was supposed to be a one page historical fiction essay. I dreaded it. I loved to read and was never really asked to write anything, but I figured that I was smart enough and capable of doing it at least to a decent enough degree to get a good grade. I ended up writing a 6 paged short story as a result of getting so into it and was worried that my teacher was going to give me a lower grade as a result. Sure enough, she called me to her desk and applauded my work and gave me edits that needed to be done. After that, a few days later I sat nervously in the principal’s office. I didn’t really do anything wrong, but that doesn’t mean I could have been falsely accused. As it turns out, my story ended up on her desk so the school could praise my efforts. I was rewarded a certificate of being awesome, and a pencil with a “Principal’s Award” on it. It seems silly to look back at that now, but when you’re in the 3rd grade this really does have an impact on your life. From that moment on, I had wanted and dreamed of being a writer.

High school didn’t give me that sort of creative release and sometimes I look back and wonder that maybe if I had more of an opportunity to focus on that, I would have done a lot better in school. I did excel in the art classes, especially my clay sculpting class but it wasn’t enough. I knew I had skills for matching colors and it was effortless for me, but I loved writing more. I probably could have made more money going into interior design or some other art related field, but I went for love.

In college, I did very well. My first English professor made us do essays every few weeks and at some point it was a fictional essay. I had remembered this story that I had wanted to write, which lead to me applying to college in the first place. From there, I again took a one page assignment and tripled it. Again, there was a note on the paper when he returned it that said “see me after class” in large red letters. Again, I felt defeated and was glad that I was going into teaching instead of following my dreams of writing. I walked up to him after class, and he raved about how awesome this story was and where did it come from. The next semester I was waiting outside of the classroom for my new English professor when I saw my old and new professor walking together. My former professor said to my new one “watch out for that girl, she’s going to end up on the New York Times Best Sellers list”. Later the “new professor”, who I proceeded to have for the rest of my time at that school, wrote in my recommendation letter the same sentiment about how I had such a talent. My creative writing professor declared that some day she would be watching me read my novel aloud to eager listeners and how I bring the story alive when I do so. These people are the ones responsible for me throwing caution to the wind and going for it.

That said essay did end up being my NaNoWriMo book I released earlier this year though it was obviously completely reworked because I had lost the original piece. Years later, I have no made it big. I’m not on a best seller’s list. In fact, I have only sold 5 books. Maybe 6. I’ve decided to go into freelancing to help supplement this until I “make it big” or at least “big enough to pay bills”. Pretty much all the jobs have been awesome, but recently I picked up a job that makes me question the morality you sometimes are faced with on these sites. It seemed like an easy payday, and it really is. Give an honest review of a product. I can do that. And I did that, only to get a “I appreciate that review, but….” response back. They didn’t want my honest review, they wanted their honest review to hock a product. I gave myself a day to consider this, and then I saw bills piling up. I went against every fiber of my being and I feel guilty for it, and gave them the review they wanted. After I receive the payment for it, I will immediately end that contract because I’m not some pony that does tricks against my will. I know I’ll be faced with the same dilemma again, and unfortunately I will probably make the same decision again because the advantage is not in the freelancer’s court. We are pawns of a greater game where we sell words for menial profit just to make ends meet until our dreams are fulfilled. And those other people profit from our words, often times without us even getting credit. Which we generally don’t mind until something like this comes along and we’re stuck with “do we want to really lie about how great a product is for a retailer’s website?”

I sold out for $5. That’s all it took. Was $5, just enough to buy milk that my ravenous boys goes through so quickly. Am I giving up though? No, in fact today I’m hoping to start my next novel and hope I can release it for Halloween. And I will be participating in this years NaNoWriMo again, and hope for achieving it again. Hopefully with more breathing room than 5 hours before deadline. I can do this. I’m talented enough, and I’m focused enough to do this.

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