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The Wealthy Writer

28 October 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on AboutFreelanceWriting.com

A couple of months ago, I placed an ad on Craigslist for a part-time writer and got about 220 responses.

One of the applicants was a screenplay writer who lacked journalism experience, but said he was versatile and willing to learn. I was interested, until the last sentence in his cover letter: “Besides, you would be supporting a starving artist.”

I hit the delete button.

This person suffered from what I call “The Starving Artist Myth.” It’s the illusion that we have to be poor for our craft. I don’t allow myself this excuse and I definitely don’t want to work with anyone who buys into this myth.

Instead, I prefer to believe in “The Wealthy Writer.” Plenty of them exist, and by adopting financially successful writers as role models, I stay motivated to achieve wealth doing what I love to do.

I’m not sure where the starving artist myth comes from, but I’ve never been willing to go hungry. My first magazine internship paid nothing, so I waitressed at two restaurants to pay the rent. When I struggled to live on the salary of one newspaper, I landed another editing job, which paid a living wage.

As my writing career grew, I learned more about entrepreneurship. I devoured classics such as Michael Gerber’s “The E-Myth,” Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” and Marc Allen’s “Visionary Business.”

I also reinforce new beliefs about wealth. I sincerely think that whatever you believe and work towards can come true. I regularly create vision boards – collages made from magazine pictures that depict my dreams. The various images include a writer surrounded by rich tropical foliage, a laptop computer flowing with money, and even bank deposit slips with specific dollar amounts written in. Many of these dreams have come to pass.

Even without vision boards, I find plenty of wealthy writers in the industry – such as on this website. Many freelance writers I know make six-figure incomes. It is not uncommon.

My favorite writers also happen to be rich. I loved their books long before I ever thought about their bank balances, but when I did learn about them later, my jaws dropped. Amy Tan received a $50,000 advance for “The Joy Luck Club,” and the paperback rights sold for $1.23 million. Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie” spent four years on the New York Times bestseller list – making the author a millionaire. Neale Donald Walsch (if I recall the movie correctly) received a $1 million advance for “Conversations with God.” J.K. Rowling isn’t a favorite author of mine, but she commands respect as the world’s first billionaire author.

Of course, none of these writers wrote to get rich. That just happened in the process of pursuing their passion. The money is a blessing. And while I may never reach their level of fame and fortune, I am inspired by their “Wealthy Writer” reality.

During a recent business event, I met an older gentleman who has done very well financially.

“What do you do?” he asked.

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“Ohhh,” he said sympathetically. “It must be slow for you this year.”

I was taken by surprise. Oh yeah, there’s a recession going on, I thought. I had completely forgotten.

“Well, actually,” I said. “I’ve had an abundance of projects this year. I’m very blessed.”

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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