Neal Stephenson on authorship, prestige, getting paid:
To set it up, a brief anecdote: a while back, I went to a writers' conference. I was making chitchat with another writer, a critically acclaimed literary novelist who taught at a university. She had never heard of me. After we'd exchanged a bit of of small talk, she asked me "And where do you teach?" just as naturally as one Slashdotter would ask another "And which distro do you use?"
I was taken aback. "I don't teach anywhere," I said.
Her turn to be taken aback. "Then what do you do?"
"I'm...a writer," I said. Which admittedly was a stupid thing to say, since she already knew that.
"Yes, but what do you do?"
I couldn't think of how to answer the question---I'd already answered it!
"You can't make a living out of being a writer, so how do you make money?" she tried.
"From...being a writer," I stammered.
At this point she finally got it, and her whole affect changed. She wasn't snobbish about it. But it was obvious that, in her mind, the sort of writer who actually made a living from it was an entirely different creature from the sort she generally associated with.
And once I got over the excruciating awkwardness of this conversation, I began to think she was right in thinking so. One way to classify artists is by to whom they are accountable.
That's from 2004.
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