“If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we’d all be millionaires.”- Abigail van Buren (an American journalist)
Yes, experiences are commodities, commercially or not. They’re intangible goods to sell or to take advantage from. And one medium we can convey our precious experiences is writing. Writing lets humans learn what their ancestors thought, felt, and desired and enables humans to arrange further reflection and more profound thiking of these ancient notions and emotions.
And here in my country, Indonesia, I cannot tell you there’s someone who succeeds to make a handsome sum of money from selling their experiences through non-fiction or fiction writing. Violations related to piracy and idea theft are everywhere to find. And Indonesian writers are not even listed in the country’s top billionaires. It’s not England or the US with its rags-turn-riches tales of authors like J. K. Rowling or Elizabeth Gilbert. I heard Andrea Hirata making a great deal of money from his autobiographical novel “Laskar Pelangi” (The Rainbow Troop) but how much is it compared to “Eat Pray Love” or “Harry Potter” series?
Even N. H Dini, a renowned novelist who live miserably from her best seller book royalty fees, advised that there be more Indonesian aspiring authors from the younger generation. But to be a writer, she said, one needs to have another settled, proper job besides writing. A job that secures one regular income so one can work as a writer with much greater ease and convenience. Because writing skills alone cannot feed the hungry and the homeless. I’m glad Dini told us beforehand because life as a writer may be romanticized as a life full of leisure activities, wandering around just to seek inspiration, talking with almost anyone one deems interesting to be told in the book as one unique character, sitting all day long typing. They may be true but may not be adequate to tell the whole story of a writer’s life.