For your consideration:
What follows is the transcript of an actual dialogue I had recently on Facebook. I will call my correspondent MR. X, and I will call myself ME. This is exactly how it went. Bear in mind I was just at my computer, as usual minding my own business.
MR X: A few friends of mine and I are planning to host a “conference” on storytelling. Conference is not really the right word. More of a gathering. Listening to people tell stories. And telling a few of our own.
Would this be of interest to you? I would love to hear some of your stories – live. I have my own business and I would be happy to pay for your time. Maybe you could do the opening address or closing? Thoughts?
ME: That sounds very interesting. I would be happy to be involved and if you could pay me that would be great.
MR. X: Excellent. I’m glad you are interested. I thought you might be. What is your rate?
ME:How much time would you say is involved?
MR. X: A couple hours maybe 2.5 or less if you don’t want to stay but you will. No prep is needed just tell (or read) one of your stories or part of a script.
ME: Sounds simple enough but while it might not seem like it, there is some prep. This is prep!
MR. X: Agreed.
ME: Do you have a figure rolling around in the back of your brain?
MR. X: I’m not sure where to start . . .
ME: Well, say I was a plumber . . . or a hooker!
MR. X: OK. Well, we charge $150 per hour. How’s that? $300 for the night. Shit. That’s what a hooker costs. But we don’t need to . . . Touch.
ME: Ha ha. Indeed, we don’t have to. I was going to ask for $250 but didn’t want to be out of line so why don’t you just give me $250 and buy me a few drinks?
MR. X: Perfect
And that’s just how it went down. I guess Mr. X must be a plumber! Or maybe a gigolo? Maybe some kind of combination of the two? Who knows?
Well, now it seems I have a new standard for determining my worth as an artist: the hooker standard. Or, if that’s too much for your delicate sensibilities, the plumber standard. I don’t use either of them so it hardly matters to me.
I have to admit, it seems reasonable to think that as an artist, I am worth, to my client, or John, what a hooker is worth. I suppose in either case, one could argue that we’re not even worth that. Although, if it’s good, maybe we’re worth a whole lot more.
It’s hard to ascribe a price tag to what I do. When money isn’t the prime motivator of our endeavours, when we don’t really do what we do for the money, it really is hard to fix a monetary value to what we do. Lately I’ve been writing poems, and honestly, if you go into poetry for the money, then you really are a true and complete idiot.
But I do know something and all joking aside, I would have to say that the thing I have learned and now believe deeply is that what I do is worth something. Maybe not much, but something.
A number of years ago (long before the days of enlightenment) I was asked by someone at City Hall in Calgary to come in and speak to a group about what it’s like to be an artist, maybe read from a play or a few poems or whatever. We figured out just what I would do and the times and dates and then I asked, “So how much do you have to pay me for this?”
There was the proverbial awkward pause and then she told me she didn’t have anything to give me, I was expected to do this for free. I hadn’t thought of the hooker standard at that time, but I did ask, “So, if you need someone to come in and talk about your computer network, do you expect him or her to come in for nothing?”
Obviously a rhetorical question. She never did find any money in the whole City of Calgary budget to even offer me a measly $50 and I dug in my heels and the event never took place. I felt bad about that, but I was trying to make a point.
Many years ago, I decided that never again will I be the only person in the room not being paid at some level for being there. I still try to live by that, and I have to say that little by little, it’s getting better.
Now that I have stumbled on the hooker standard, who knows, it might actually be worth my while.
Thanks for reading!
Here’s a little clip that has nothing to do with anything, but beauty . . . .