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Mar 22, 2024

Is There Residual Resentment for Lousy Residuals?

The freelance life is the life for me…

By Ed Goldman

I received a residual check not long ago, issued when someone bought a copy of my most current book, “Don’t  Cry for Me, Ardent Reader.” It’s my fifth book and the third to have been published by the Sacramento Business Journal. The check—and I don’t mean to brag— was for $2.56. 

At least that’s the amount I recall. I got so busy showing it off to friends, casual acquaintances and younger writers seeking career advice that I misplaced it. 

Edgy Cartoon

Grin and bare it

I’m not sure if it was the lowest amount I’d ever received for my work but it had to be up there with the lowest. Or down there, I should say. To put this in perspective: A tall Caffè Latte at Starbucks costs $3.75.

Having been a freelance writer for a little over half a century, I have no illusions about the field I chose to work in. I didn’t go into this with the expectation it would yield riches, glamor, the best tables in restaurants or a flurry of seductive inquiries. But I suspected that if I stuck with it—and more to the point, got any good at it—there’d be satisfying paydays from time to time. 

These have happened when I successfully peddled one of my pieces to a major magazine or publisher, a TV or film studio or even a theatre company. But they’ve been by no means a weekly or even monthly occurrence.

Even so, for me, writing has been a daily occurrence, even when I wasn’t sure if what I was working on would be salable, much less to whom. I’ve taken relatively few vacations in my life—and when I have, I’ve either written about them during or afterwards. 

If that sounds obsessive, I suppose it is. But what it’s mainly been all these decades is—and please don’t hate me for this—fun.

You probably have your own outlets or hobbies that you pursue with a degree of ardor or plain old hard work that would dwarf your workplace energy output. And whatever it is—gardening, car tinkering, scrapbooking, cooking—it may look to an observer like hard work. Because you work hard at it. And because you love it.  

Looking for a Great Gift?

Sitting down to write, whether it’s at my desk on my computer or in a coffee shop on the back of receipts I never seem to empty my pockets of, has lifted my mood in its darkest times and served as an important component of not only self-diagnosis but also its elusive follow-up: self-cure. 

It’s not as literal as you might think (and certainly not as literary, as anyone familiar with my output would readily agree). Meaning, I don’t jot down a specific problem and list possible solutions. Instead, I just write about whatever I’m looking at, currently reading or a remembered incident from my youth, married years or recurrent bouts of bachelorhood. 

And I don’t mean to suggest that after a session of writing, which is often short on introspection but can go a long way toward alleviating a soul-grinding moment, I emerge declaring to myself, “Problem solved!” Not at all. More like “Problem delayed!” or, more likely, “Problem ignored!”

Now where the hell is that check? Maybe I can negotiate a tall Caffè Latte at Starbucks.

Don’t forget! A new Goldman State Podcast drops every Friday!


Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).