Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Now accepting intangibles: Why I'm okay losing money to get published

The first 90 years or so, they go by pretty fast. Then one day, you wake up and you realize that you're not 81 anymore. And then you begin to count the minutes, rather than the days and you realize that pretty soon you'll be gone and that all you have, see, is the experiences. That's all there is Johnny. The experiences.
                                                                                            -Grandpa Gustafson, Grumpier Old Men

Writing for magazines can seem more a of money pit than a gold mine. You want me to spend hundreds of dollars in gas, more in lodging, many days of vacation, and hours researching, writing and processing photos, all in exchange for a few hundred dollars? .... Actually, yes, please. The monetary compensation is only part of the package.

These assignments provide the perfect excuse to become acquainted with the rivers on my "someday" list, today. Some "help" is usually offered, along with the chance to make some new friends.
An autumn day on the Bitterroot with Joe Cummings of Classic Journey Outfitter.
The "help" comes via opportunities to spend time on the water with guides and outfitters I'd not otherwise book. For example, I got to fish with former NFL linebacker and current Missoula-based outfitter Joe Cummings on the Bitterroot a few years ago. We spent a day catching cutts and browns, Joe telling stories of football and fishing. Joe's a great guy running a fantastic operation - book your next Bitterroot trip with him, seriously. And this April, I had the chance to meet and fish with the Kootenai River's Tim Linehan. He's a nice man who will have you into fish before you realize you're fishing, amidst warm conversation and encouragement. In three days of fishing, Tim provided two all-time fishing days for me. It's hard to put a price tag on that. (Incidentally, treat yourself to a day of fishing on the Kootenai River. If you're feeling especially indulgent, book a day with Linehan Outfitting Company.)
Good fishing begins and ends with a smile.
And especially if I have the opportunity to advocate for my causes like public land and stream access, there's inherent payment in that.

To be fair, I do have the advantage of having a regular 40-hour job. But that's what it takes - I work hard to be able to accept small paychecks.

Not everyone is on board with this way of thinking, regarding freelancing. Some colleagues argue that we should demand top dollar so as to keep the market value for articles and photos at a livable monetary wage (which they really are not, in many cases). They contend that we should not accept such small paychecks for that amount of work and expense. I understand, but mine is not to drive market price. Mine is only to live my life as I see fit. I cannot be responsible for yours.

Because no matter the circumstances, I want to be writing, I want to be getting published, I want to be fishing, I want to be traveling and I want to be making these kinds of friends. That's all there is, Johnny.


Lester Kish said...

That opening movie line is a classic. The years go by fast(er). So, write, take photos, enjoy. If, you can make a buck along the way, so much the better. Frankly, I thought it easier to sell photos back in the days of film.

Josh Bergan said...

Thanks, I agree. I imagine there was much less competition in the days of film, which made a big difference.