It’s damn near impossible to get an accurate gauge of writing finances. As a whole, writing isn’t a highly paid profession. And let’s be honest, the writing community can be a tad gossipy and snarky as well. Which makes everyone get all coy when money comes up, as opposed to say professional sports or the business world where income specifics are openly published and shared.
So when >The New Yorker published Gary Shteyngart’s essay “Confessions of a Watch Geek”, it caught my attention for a number of reasons.
First, the essay is about Shteyngart’s watch obsession. Which, to be candid, isn’t that unique or impressive. Shit, Slushpile patron saint John Biggs and I both have more extensive collections that what Shteyngart accumulates, and we’re peasants. Although he did do it pretty quickly, whereas my watches have been more slowly acquired over time because hocking kidneys ain’t quick.
Biggs and I have been in the watch game for a long time. WristWatchReview started in 2004 and my partner in crime even published a book about wristwatches (see the subtle ad on the homepage for shameless shilling). So Shteyngart’s addiction isn’t really new, or unique. In fact, it’s kind of like penning an essay on discovering this new show called Game of Thrones and you’re not going to believe this, but they killed the main guy in the very first season! But okay, we’re always happy to have another watch fiend join the family.
What was newsworthy to me in the article is Shteyngart’s financial formula. He states he purchased a Nomos (undeniably a cool brand) for $4,137.25. He then explains that the purchase amounted to “roughly 4.3 writing days.”
Now, I ain’t too good with ciphering. But that comes out to $962 and some change per writing day. Shit, that’s good work if you can get it.
That calculation seems to hold true because later in the piece, Shteyngart writes, “I had now given up 10.1 days of artistic freedom” for his watch collection. You sketch out the dollars he spent and yeah, it comes out to roughly ten grand. So he’s definitely trending at a thousand dollars a day writing.
But “day” can be defined in a number of ways. For Shteyngart, states, “I believe that a novelist should write for no more than four hours a day.” So that puts him at $240 an hour. Impressive
Now, I originally wrote this post and didn’t click on the Publish button because I’m fully aware of how snarky this might sound. “He makes a thousand a day!” But I don’t mean it aggressively or in a “he doesn’t deserve that” kind of way. I’m more impressed than anything else. Get you some, Gary.
So I just saved this piece away. But then, I saw today where Shteyngart told CNBC keeps two years expenses on hand in case of emergency. He lives in New York City, right? So what’s a slush fund for two years in the Big Apple? A few hundred thousand, I would guess.
All of which is to say, as I hit the Publish button, kudos to Gary Styeyngart. Kudos for having an impressive career, writing good books, for being frugal and choosing a pretty harmless way of going off the deep end. He’s not buying heroin with his cash, so he can spend it however he wants. And, more importantly, kudos for talking openly about his financial circumstances. If more authors did so, there might be a bit more clarity to the world of publishing and writing.
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