For What It’s Worth   5 comments

For your consideration:

The Royal Arrow circa 1941 as used by Hemingway and Ian Fleming.

The Royal Arrow circa 1941 as used by Hemingway and Ian Fleming.

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 . . . .


Posted January 21, 2013 by Eugene Stickland in Uncategorized

5 responses to “For What It’s Worth

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  1. Another great giggler from you … very witty piece! I would have thought that per hour rate low for wealthyCalgary, but what do I know. Humble suggestion – when quoting artistic self worth prices for delicate sensibilities, use plumber… when quoting for a male, use hooker …. when quoting for a female, use gigolo … their response may tell you if you actually want to perform at that gig! lol

  2. Thanks for posting this. It has taken me far too long to come to terms with the fact that if my knowledge and talent are worth something to someone that I have a right to ask to be compensated for something that will take my time away from my craft. It can be tough evaluating what you should charge, but I think it’s important to do so.

  3. Nice entry and in addition to it, I love Pablo. At 93 when he was asked why he practices cello three hours a day, his response was simply: “I’m beginning to notice some improvement.” Wonderful answer.

  4. Good for you! Charging admission so the authors would be paid for “entertaining” the audience was the idea behind the literary salons I organized. The authors didn’t make much, but at least it was something, and the audience realized they shouldn’t expect authors to perform for nothing more than the $1/book they might make on royalties.

  5. Humour and beautiful music – basic daily necessities. Thanks for posting both. I decided to take up the cello a few months ago and that Bach cello suite is one of my inspirational favourites.

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