Writer’s Desk: Don’t Sell Yourself Short

In the documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth, the late and astoundingly great Harlan Ellison told a story about the time a film company asked to use a clip from an interview he’d given about Babylon 5 (a show he’d worked on). Ellison said, sure, just pay me. This took the caller by surprise.

Per Open Culture, Ellison responded thus:

Do you get a paycheck? Does your boss get a paycheck? Do you pay the telecine guy? Do you pay the cameraman? Do you pay the cutters? Do you pay the Teamsters when they schlep your stuff on the trucks? Would you go to the gas station and ask them to give you free gas? Would you go to the doctor and have them take out our spleen for nothing?

There are many reasons besides money to write. But it’s also intensely time-consuming, frequently frustrating work that almost never gets the recognition or remuneration that it deserves.

Don’t be taken advantage of. Writing is a calling. It is also a job. Don’t be a sucker and give everything away for free just because you’re asked.

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