One of my favorite ways to kill time with friends is to ask random “Would You Rather?” questions. They’ve become really popular as, with the right question, you can learn a lot about people. My most frequently asked question is “Would you rather save your pet or an unknown human from a burning building?” That one has stirred up a million debates (and there’s definitely a right answer, mwahaha).
There’s another “Would You Rather?” question I ask while speaking about my book to writers groups or readers groups or bathroom attendants:
“If you could have a million dollars OR a million readers, which would you choose?”
In the course of my little speech I invariably say, “For me, it’s the easiest choice in the world.” I then look around with my most serious face so everyone knows how dedicated I am to writing versus money.
In the heat of the moment, that statement is so true. I’m not writing for the money. I’m writing to reach people. I want to make people think and feel.
However, reaching people doesn’t pay the bills. Reaching people doesn’t keep my wardrobe full of cutoff jean shorts from Ross. Reaching people doesn’t put delicious Thai food on my table.
So I finally sat down and made myself really ponder both sides of the question.
And that’s where the fun “Let’s think of a loophole!” reasoning came in.
The devil on my left shoulder, whom we’ll call Snookums, said, “With a million dollars, you could hire a publicist and a marketer! They could reach a million people. Problem solved! And you should still end up with, like, a lot of money! That’s so much Pad Thai! And so many pairs of Ross jean shorts!”
The other devil, Mashooga, replied, “This is not about the money. With a million people, you’ve got a real reader base. Look at how many people you’re touching. And that number can grow! Look how many people will be affected by something you created. No amount of money can match that.”
In response, Snookums blew a raspberry on his arm. “Who says the million readers are all fans. If you’re looking at the law of averages, a hundred thousand people probably left you a bad Amazon review. That sucks.”
And so started the bickering war.
Mashooga: “Well, you can’t use the money to get readers. This is an OR scenario. You pick one OR the other. Get it?”
Snookums: “Then you can’t have more than a million readers.”
Mashooga: “You’re greedy. You just want money.”
Snookums: “You’re vain. You just want fame.”
At that point, Snookums and Mashooga engaged in to a vicious slap fight.
Meanwhile, their arguments got me thinking even harder. Was there some sort of truth to the statements? How much of having a huge readership is about reaching people versus being well known? I honestly don’t know.
So then I changed the question to “Would you rather have a million dollars OR ghost write a novel with a million readers?” That meant no one would know I was behind the novel. So I’d reach people but they wouldn’t know it was me.
Now, I feel selfish because the answer became much much harder. OMG did it ever become harder! If I release a novel that touches people, I want them to know I’m touching them. OK that sounds kinda dirty. I swear this is not the kind of touching that involves one of those good touch/bad touch dolls.
Anyway, the arguments continued to swirl around in my head until, after no less than 382 hours of internal debates, I finally came up with an answer as to why I couldn’t take the money:
Because rich kids suck.
What? Oh, I need to explain. OK:
While the “Rich kids suck” reasoning is a stereotype, everyone knows a rich kid who just sucks.
Having a bunch of money can often create an inherent laziness. Why work hard when you already have what you need? Actually, for me it would be the opposite. I’m so experiential and there’s so much I haven’t seen that I wouldn’t be lazy. Instead, I’d want to be out doing anything and everything money can buy. Perhaps at the expense of writing.
Case in point, let’s look at writing temptations:
Today, my biggest temptation to skip writing was the opportunity to watch two lizards in the back yard trying to fit on the same leaf.
If I had riches, the temptations would be millions of times larger. It would be so hard to write when I could go shopping for clothes. Not at Ross. In a limousine. With green wheels!
OK I’m probably getting carried away, but my decision has been made:
Don’t give me money OR readers. Let me earn them.
P.S. But if you want to give me money AND readers, I probably won’t say no. Or one. Or the other. Hey, I’m human. Deal with it.