Writers & Their Money

This post is a part of an ongoing series entitled MIP (Man In Progress).After my 25th Birthday I decided to improve three aspects of my life, my physical well-being, my romantic relationships, and my writing career. My philosophy is that a writer’s work and his life are irrevocably intertwined and in order to improve one, we inevitably have to improve the other.

As I worked on the career aspect of my Man In Progress pledge this year, I learned that sorting out my feelings around money was critical to my growth and success.

Writers often have a funky relationship with money. In fact, not just writers but most people have a pretty dysfunctional relationship with money.

But I really do believe that it isn’t the pursuit of wealth that poisons us, it is a selfish intention behind that pursuit that can lead us to ruin.

If our intentions our good, honest, and selfless, however, then what is so wrong with acquiring more wealth?

Nothing.

What bad can come from a good, honest, selfless person acquiring more money other than that they will have the ability to become MORE good, MORE selfless, and MORE honest?

Yes, part of the problem in the last decade was that there were several individuals in our country whose desire for wealth outweighed their concern for the greater good.

And yes, what can help us in the next decade is if we place a heavy check on this kind of activity and punish those who act so selfishly.

But what can also help us is if good, honest, selfless people (who do care about the greater good) are encouraged to acquire more wealth so that their good influence can balance out those who are more self-centered in their pursuit of wealth.

Writers and Their Money

I am not one to believe that one can just think their way to wealth, but I do believe that in order for you to accept wealth into your life, you must be open to it.

You must be okay and comfortable with having money in order for you to keep money in your life. This is actually not some fuzzy, “out-there,” concept, it is just common sense:

For instance, there may be tons of grants out there awarding money to writers so that they can write. Now, the writer who is comfortable with the pursuit of wealth will research and find this grant opportunity and is more likely to get the grant; meanwhile, the writer who is not comfortable (and open) to the pursuit of wealth will likely not research the grant, not find the grant, and finally, will have zero chance of actually getting the grant.

Which writer are you? The one who is uncomfortable with pursuing wealth and therefore runs away from money? Or the one who is comfortable with pursuing wealth, and accepting money in your life, because you realize that only good can come from money if your intentions are good and selfless?

Are you closing yourself off from wealth because you think wealth will make you a “bad” or “wrong” person? Or are you open and comfortable with actively pursuing wealth because you know that money is not powerful enough to change who you are?

In my experience, if you are not comfortable or okay with having money then you will devise plans and situations in which money is hard to come by–or money will be there for you to use, but you won’t give yourself the ability to take full advantage of it.

I can’t tell you how many good, honest people I have come across who are very successful at what they do, but who make little or no money doing it. When I ask these people why don’t they try to make more money from what they’re very successful at, they will often say to me:

“Oh, I’m not in it for the money…”

Then (shockingly) they will mention several instances in which opportunities have come up for them to make more money from what they’re doing, but then they share that they turned down each opportunity because they were just “not in it for the money.”

“What are you ‘in it for’ then?” I ask.

“For the people. I love to help people ” they say.

Or they respond: “For the fans.”

To which I reply:

“But don’t you think you’ll be able help MORE people if you can figure out a way to make MORE money doing what you’re doing? Couldn’t you use the money you make from making fans happy, to make even MORE fans happy? If helping people is really your end game, then making more money could only help you achieve that end game, don’t you think?”

At this point, I’ve lost them.

I know it is because what I am saying is running contrary to their belief that all money is evil, and that all those who actively pursue wealth are the scum of the earth, whether or not their intentions are good.

But life, I am finding, is not so black and white, and such a cynical, simplistic view of money can really hurt our progress.

Money Is Not Your Enemy: If Anyone Is Your Enemy, It’s You.

We live in a world that believes money is the root of all evil, and that the pursuit of wealth can only lead to bad things.

But, as I have said, this is such a simplistic, cynical view to have, and it closes us off from all the wealth that life may be currently granting us. This is why we must change the way we feel about money: we must recognize that all wealth is good as long as it is acquired with good intentions.

I, for one, am tired of the concept that money in and of itself is evil. It implies that I, as a human being, am powerless in the face of something as quaint as a golden coin. It implies that something as simple as a green-colored piece of paper can fundamentally change who I am. It implies that a shiny little rock, as clear as glass, can transfigure my very essence.

But money can’t change who I am. Wealth can’t alter my soul. That’s a lie.

Money is not my enemy. If anyone or anything were to betray me in the pursuit of more wealth, it would be me, not money.

If I blamed money for the change, then I would only be using money as a scapegoat. An excuse. A distraction from the real problem: my choices. Because I, as a human being, always have the power of choice. I have a will. And so if I choose to make money change me, that’s my problem, not money’s problem.

Money can never change us, and if it does, that’s because we’ve let it change us.

So don’t be afraid of becoming more wealthy, be afraid that you will forget that it is you who choose your own behavior.

Finally: these days everyone is looking for a Robin Hood who is brave enough to rob from the rich and give to the poor, but no one ever thinks that maybe they can become the rich who steals from themselves in order to give to the poor.

Yes, stealing from the rich would be more romantic, but at least stealing from yourself would be more legal.

much love,

Ollin

Today’s Courage Exercise

Let yourself be comfortable with having more money. Realize that as long as your intentions are good and honest, there is nothing wrong with the pursuit of wealth.

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4 comments on “Writers & Their Money

  1. This is a really interesting post. I’m one of those people who always says I don’t care about money. It’s not because I think money is evil but because I believe you can be happy regardless of how much money you make (within reason, I’m sure living at the poverty level is very stressful). I’ve always tended to think people are either money-motivated or not but maybe there is more to it. I’ve never thought about how having more $$ would allow me to do more, bring more good into the world. I love this concept. This motivates me to care about the money.

  2. Thanks Ollin – another thought provoking post. I do hope you are putting these ideas together for a book or audio CDs for writers. Even though I know money is only a method of trading, I still get hung-up on judging the ‘value’ of my work. If I don’t ask or put my writing ‘out-there’ I don’t feel the shame of rejection (which, of course, may never happen anyway)

  3. rosellezubey says:

    But how many people really acquire their wealth with good intentions Ollin? I mean if I’m not mistaken Bill Gates didn’t decide to give away his fortune until he got married. This is just my opinion, but I associate the accumulation of wealth with negativity and wrongdoing. When I think of making money, I think of making enough to live on and pay my current bills and my old bills. That is really all I need. Right now I don’t even have that.

  4. An excellent post, Ollin. I believe a lot of people – and I have been in their number – shoot themselves in the foot about money without really being aware of their intentions about money. Someone who fears success (because it brings with it new responsibilities and new standards to live up to) but is not totally aware of how intrusive that fear is into our development as a human being, can block money from coming into his or her life because it is a clear, outward sign of success. I think you began this post perfectly – we need to be “open” to money coming into our lives. So while we may not be able to will money to arrive, certainly being open to its arrival does push the process along…in all sorts of ways. We work harder. We are organized about our money and show that we value it. And we celebrate its arrival by being able to be more generous in all ways – of ourselves, of the fruits of our labor, showing care with others. Thanks very much for this post. Always, Dana

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