Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I was a little stumped for a blog topic today since I'm not among the 52% of Americans with "high expectations" (ABC World News) nor the two-thirds who are "optimistic" (NBC Nightly News).
So instead of waxing on about those numbers, I took a poll and asked a few people an entirely different question: when you have the opportunity to talk to an author, what's the one question you'd like answered?
The results of this unscientific, small sample survey: "How much do you make?"
Huh? Curiosity about money is above interest in the development of characters, and the choice of leit motifs? Above issues of good and evil in mysteries? And even above what time we start our writing day?
Yes, it's about money.
It got me wondering why most of us are so secretive about our money—how much we earn, how much things cost, how much we have in the bank. For example, maybe it's just my little corner of the publishing world, but we don't readily share the amounts of our contracts.
Occasionally an audience member at a reading will ask about money, and I have heard and given many variations of hand-waving. "Well, we're not on welfare," is one; "I'm not wearing Prada," another. "It varies," is still another non-response.
I work at a formerly government-run laboratory where everyone's salary was in the public domain. Once a year, you could go to the company store and buy a thick printout with the salaries of all approximately 8000 employees—for one dollar! Need I say that the lines were long, that the rest of the day was spent with a ruler and highlighter, and that grunts and groans were heard throughout the plant.
"How much do you make" is considered a rude dinner table question, possibly even more so than "how often do you have sex?"
Why do you think this is? Is it because we feel our worth is tied up in the dollars we receive and if we give a low amount people will think less of us? Or are we reluctant to give a high number, lest everyone hit us up for a loan?
What's your experience? And how much do you make? (kidding!)