Pearls from artists* # 39

May 8, 2013

Great Salt Lake

Great Salt Lake

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

When you think of paying an author for his work you ought to think generously.  It is the author who makes your magazine.  If you cannot pay in cold cash, why don’t you write the author and ask what you could do for him?  Offer to do something in the nature of a personal sacrifice, I would say.  He may need to have some typing done, or some printing; he may need a table to write on, or books to reference; he may need some research work done for him.  There are a thousand and one things he may need and appreciate much more than cold cash, especially when it constitutes a sum which, by American standards of living, means absolutely nothing.  It costs me, for example, almost five dollars a week for postage.  It costs me much more than that for the gifts of books and water colors I am obliged to make to enthusiastic admirers who are too poor to buy my work.

… But this, it seems to me, is the way one good artist should treat another.  And you who are editors of small magazines are mostly artists yourselves, I take it.  You all expect to become celebrated writers some day; you identify yourselves with the men whose work you admire  and hope to publish.  Well, carry out the identification to the nth degree, I say.  Think how you would feel if, after years of labor and struggle, you are asked to accept a trivial sum.  It is far, far better to say:  “We have no money at all.  We believe in you and your work… will you help us?  We are willing to make any sacrifice in order to make your name known.”  Most authors would be touched by such an appeal; they would offer their work gladly; they would probably offer to help in other ways.  I am thinking naturally of the kind of writers whom you wish to interest in your project.  There can be a magnificent collaboration between author and editor, author an publisher.  But you, as editor, must first begin by giving, not demanding.  Give the shirt off your back, or offer to give it, and then see what sort of response you will get form the author.  I have often noticed with beggars that when they ask for something and you offer them twice or ten times as much, they are so overwhelmed that they often refuse to accept anything, or else they offer to become your slave.  Writers, in a way, are like beggars.  They are continually begging to be heard, to be recognized.  Really they are simply begging for a chance to give of their great gifts – which is the most heart-rending begging of all and a disgrace to any civilized community in which it happens.  Which is to say, almost the entire civilized world.

Henry Miller in Stand Still Like the Hummingbird   

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