Buying the Cow

My dad is never one to mince words.  As a teenager, his version of The Talk was to inform me that a guy would never buy the cow if he could get the milk for free.  His words of wisdom return to me often – at least when I think about writing.

As a writer, I give away a lot of milk.

And I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it.

On the one hand, it can be soul-sucking to write for free.  You put time and effort and love into these things and most free stuff – spec scripts and writing samples and slews of pitches – never see the light of day.  On the other hand, many other projects that I’ve written that I *have* been paid for were also never produced.  Do I actually feel better about that because the producer’s check cleared?  Not really.  On one project in particular broke my heart: it’s the best script I’ve written to date, but it was work-for-hire.  I don’t own the underlying rights.  At least with a spec script, I can always shop it around; not so with something that’s been bought and paid for.  I guess part of me wants to be a serial dater – but paid-for scripts are sadly monogamous.

(Quick request: Do not tell my husband about this particular metaphor.)

Not that there’s much I can do about writing for free; writers need product to be able to show off their particular talents.  At least pitching lets us present our stuff without having to write the whole script on spec.  And I do say no – to outrageous requests, to people I don’t like, and to projects that have neither artistic nor financial rewards down the line.

But I still say yes a lot.

Mocha-choca milkshake, anyone?


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