Tag Archives: technical writing

In Response to a Writing Group Question About How to Make Real Money as a Writer

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In 1995 I moved to Seattle from New York City, with an unfinished BA in English (9 credits shy) and a promise to send the remaining course work by mail.

I applied for a job with a software company.

Because I had nothing else, I brought a few poems to my first interview for a writing sample. One poem contained the word “goddamn,” and the fellow who was interviewing me said he didn’t mind but thought it might be a bad poem to use on a future interview. I hadn’t even realized.

The hiring manager at the software company asked me how much I expected to earn. I hadn’t given much thought to salary requirements and had only ever held hourly wage jobs. I told her the first number that popped into my head: twenty thousand. She smiled and told me she would give me twenty-four. I was so surprised and elated I had to restrain myself from saying, “thousand?” A year later I learned I was the lowest paid writer in a group that was notoriously underpaid. They gave me a ten thousand dollar raise my second year just to put me even with the rest. As it turned out, I was really good at interviewing software developers and coming up with clever ways to explain how to use the company’s financial software.

Now I work at the biggest software company on the planet. I make more money than I did in 1995 but somehow it’s still not enough. Two years ago my oldest son, who grew up in Steelton, asked me in all seriousness if I were rich. Two months ago my eleven-year-old daughter, who has lived her entire life in a suburb of Seattle, asked me with equal candor if we were poor.

Money is all about perspective.

Do what seems right. Keep trying. One day you end up right where you are supposed to be. Chances are, you will still have to think long and hard before you make certain purchases.

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