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September 30, 2021

In this interview, Alexander and I talk a lot about money, and specifically, about how asking for money and negotiating for what you want and need is a key piece of building a healthy relationship with your work and career.
We also talked about the myth of the solitary artist, and the reality: that community and relationships are key to not just success, but survival.
Finally, Alexander is the source of an incredibly pivotal insight for me: that caring for your creative process IS self-care, and when you allow yourself the margin to take care of your work process, it benefits not only your body and mental health (and that of your family and loved ones) but the work itself.

More from the episode...

  • The importance of collective action in securing the rights of authors.
  • The role of community in creative career-building. How is writing "a community project"?
  • What is the "golden thread" and how does it help creators build relationships with their followers?
  • The word "networking" sounds "weirdly clinical" to Alexander— why at some point he figured out that's what he was doing, and that it was a key to his success. What's a better way to look at this fraught term?
  • Alexander breaks down why writers should always ask for more money: "Sometimes people are like, how come the Queen of the Night took you so long? And it's like, well, I did waste a lot of time writing essays for $150."
  • What was in the folder writer Denis Johnson (Jesus's Son) labeled "answers"?
  • Instead of running himself into the ground because he's eager to please, Alexander lays out his process to not overschedule himself.
  • How earning with your work can help you make more work, in a literal as well as an emotional sense: "It won me ...a typewriter that I then used to write for a long time. And that typewriter became a talisman at a time that I needed a talisman. I wrote this typewriter into existence. I'm now using it to write more stories."
  • "Don't be so grateful that you let yourself down." —What Alexander would tell his younger self if he could.
  • Why it's so important to trust yourself and recognizing when self-doubt is holding you back from pursuing your creative goals.
  • Alexander lays out several important pieces of advice to novice pro writers, including "There's no reason to think that just because you're an unknown writer you can't somehow get a decent fee for your work."
  • More from our guest:

    Alexander Chee is the author of the novels Edinburgh, The Queen of the Night, and the essay collection How To Write An Autobiographical Novel as well as many short stories and essays. He is a contributing editor at The New Republic, an editor at large at VQR, and a critic-at-large for The Los Angeles Times. He currently teaches creative nonfiction and fiction at Dartmouth College.

    Connect with Alexander Chee

    twitter @alexanderchee

    instagram @cheemobile

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