What to do with this substantial check, in 500 words or less?
Substantial to one is survival to another.
$1000 is a lot of food, even with eggs at $5/dozen. But it won’t cover a month’s rent.
$5,000 would cover the rent, but not the credit card debt.
$10,000 pays the credit, but not the student loans.
$25,000? A deep breath of relief I haven’t taken in years.
A moment of swimming, not sinking.
How long will it last? Will I get another? What if I mess this up?
And now I’m spiraling again.
But there’s a minute, when I first open that check where it doesn’t matter if it’s a dollar or a thousand. That check says, “Someone read your words and they see you as a writer.”
The value of this check is in its validation.
I’ll spend it on my self-esteem,
Invest it in my imagination,
And deposit whatever’s left in my dreams.
It could happen
It was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life: To be paid, and paid well, for a work of fiction to which my pen had given birth. My mind...my imagination. Finally, my creativity had given birth to something that would take on a life of its own outside of my mind. And I was getting paid!
It seemed like so much money at first. I mean, it was a lot of money. I had never been paid six figures all at once before. The taxes were significant. Not a surprise, but still depressing when you've already made a list of where the funds will go.
We had mold people come in and rip out the walls in the basement. They removed the mold I could smell but no one could see (a possible catalyst to my husband's Parkinson's) and waterproofed the walls before new floors, sheet rock, molding and waterproof paint. We also added a bath and shower so that my octogenarian in laws wouldn't have to trudge up two flights to use the full bath upstairs.
We hired an arborist to help the trees that look sick in our garden and remove the branches of the half dead tree that has been leaning on the roof for years. And then we replaced the roof (including adding insulation so we can stop losing all the heat in the winter). We used solar shingles -- for the environment, to lower our electric bills and to charge my husband's car [his favorite ever, by the way. The only one he ever named: kara ılan (black snake).]
We hired a contractor to paint my mom's house and a landscaper to take care of the bushes and weeds that drive her crazy, so that she can concentrate on planting the flowers she likes. We also paid for her annual trip to Vegas with a three week stay at the Bellagio, The Venetian and the Aria, and tickets to all her favorite shows.
We paid for my son's wedding so his fiancées family could concentrate on her baby brother's cancer treatment that insurance refused to cover; sadly, even with the specialized proton therapy, there was a concern that he could develop secondary cancers due to a genetic mutation.
We helped my step-brother pay for a home attendant since, after over a month in the hospital, a surgery, myriad tests, daily physical therapy and a severe case of diarrhea incurred while in the hospital, doctors could not figure out why he still couldn’t feel his feet (the original reason he was admitted to the hospital) and insurance was no longer willing to pay them to figure it out and certainly not for a home attendent.
At this point, not only had we spent every last penny of the check from my publisher, we had had to dip into our savings, something I avoid doing most of the time.
Clearly, I needed to write a sequel. Or two. Maybe I could get a movie deal...
Feed the Devil
I’d feed it to the debt.
To the beast that sits sullenly on my chest.
To the monster grinding me to ash.
To the freedom that never existed.
Just another dime.
Just another dollar.
Just another thing to add to my dusty, useless collection.
I’d buy back my soul from the corporate devil.
I’d laugh in the Joneses' faces as I sold off every last scrap of garbage cluttering the nooks and crannies of my life.
And if there was anything left,
I’d buy that little cabin in the woods.
I’d sit in the solitude of escaping the race of rats.
I’d breathe in the important.
The little laughs.
The mud between the toes.
The growing people, growing things marching in the whisper of quiet days gone by.
I’d swallow down gulps of the essence of life, until I was bursting full, ready to wither in silent contentment.
But who am I kidding?
A windfall doesn’t do much when you need a hurricane.
I’d feed it to the monster, the corporate devil, the debt.
And when I had,
It’d still be hungry
Okay, I’ll dream big. I’ll tell you about something beyond your wildest fantasies of wealth. An “unexpected windfall” could be enough to cover rent for a month or enough to allow me to quit my job. For the purpose of this exercise — and of feeding the tiny glimmer of hope my brain keeps locked up in the land of make-believe — I’ll proceed as if this is a mind-boggling, life-changing amount.
Of course, I would take care of the necessities. I could actually buy a house after an entire lifetime of living in rentals. I would pay off my parents’ mortgage and all the student loans getting in the way of our success. Maybe we would get on one of those crazy new space flights that private companies are starting to offer.
That’s all great and honorable. It would eliminate a lot of heartache and stress, of course. There’s one thing you can’t buy with any lottery winnings. The richest people in the world can’t afford it because it can’t be bought. Time is priceless. You can’t buy it until we figure out how to make time machines work. You can get pretty close with some shortcuts only the wealthy can afford, though.
I would quit my job, leave the hustle culture, stop climbing the ladder, and walk away from responsibility. I would have a small army hired to run my household so I can sit with a blissfully unemployed glow on my face. I would sink into my big, leather couch with a boozy milkshake and enjoy the weightlessness of everything being taken care of without a devastating mental load. I would wake up at noon, take an afternoon nap, and fall asleep late at night without a single worry in my mind.
I desperately want to walk away from the “grind” and pour that energy into my hobbies instead. God, what a disgusting obsession we have with killing ourselves to live. All this struggle for what? So we can live with crippling anxiety that we’ll lose our health and home at any time and die penniless? I think that’s the one thing Gen Z has gotten right: do your job, but don’t let anyone exploit you by rewarding productivity with more responsibility.
I don’t want to chase a promotion just to effectively make less money each year as inflation climbs. I want to sit back in my big, leather couch. Sometimes I can roleplay this fantasy for a few hours on weekends. It’s not as intoxicating as the real thing, but the dream is enough to make reality just a tad bit more bearable. I’ll just keep telling myself that while I make fancy slideshows for a living.
as a child i would promise myself
that if i was ever rich,
i'd donate most of it to charity.
when i received my first paycheck
i donated most of it to charity
and stored the rest away
in case of emergency.
when i received my second paycheck,
i figured my obligation to charity had already
so i gave some to my family.
college funds, illness, meals out,
trips to visit,
and stored the rest away
for a rainy day.
when i received my third paycheck,
i figured it was high time that
i treated myself
so i browsed
dyed my hair,
built a tiny house
a surgery or two,
and stored the rest away
because you never know.
when i received my fourth paycheck,
i started worrying about
after all, more and more
of my paycheck
was being taken.
i hired someone to file them for me
(let's be real, no one really
likes doing them anyway)
and stored the rest away
because you can never be too careful.
when i received my fifth paycheck
i hired a lawyer
because my family
was starting to beg for money.
they wanted my house, my car, my generosity
as if i was nothing more than a bank.
and it wasn't just them––
my friends, my significant others––
i was reduced to nothing more
than the number after the dollar sign,
and stored the rest away
so they can pick my corpse when i'm gone.
when i received my sixth paycheck
i sat and stared at it for a long moment
wondering what i could do with it
now that i no longer had anyone left
to spend it on.
i'd begun to pray
for something bad to happen
just so i'd have a good reason
to spend my money
on something worthwhile.
but nothing happened, so i
held my breath
and stored the rest away
for a day that might never come.
when i received my seventh paycheck
i started looking
something new and exciting
to fill the void inside of me,
searching for some space odyssey
or underwater exploration.
filled me with energy:
a reason to live, a purpose.
so i booked a trip
and stored the rest away
for the next adventure.
when i received my eighth paycheck,
the world got smaller.
i had done everything there was to do
and stored the rest away
for the next life.
when i received my ninth paycheck
i wondered if it was possible to buy
if i could buy companionship
on my deathbed,
or if i could buy immortality.
if everyone were immortal
would we pay to die,
for what we can't have?
i started preparing for my inevitable end,
and stored the rest away
for another person to take my place.
when i received my tenth paycheck
there was no one left
to cash it.
Leave the Cannibals
They don’t make them like they used to.
Envelopes used to be easier to rip open, or steam open. Between paper cuts and interlayered plastic, I do better snipping off the shorter side.
Opening up expected news has become a ritual between us. Too long we witnessed memories without each other; every opportunity of future ones we wait until the other is ready to join in the moment. My husband is finally home, so here it goes.
“Dear Mrs. Wingerd, …” and here Hubby cannot wait any longer and must read it side by side with me. Side by side. As we’ve sowed, so shall we reap. Tears, jittery fists, and jostling don’t make reading the letter easy. We jump up and down like fools together. “BABE!!! YOU DID IT!!!”
Immediate plans set the check into a savings account or possibly a mutual fund, not doing anything with it until we’ve slept at least a day. Or fortnight. But this is what we do. We create this safety buffer by releasing ties to it temporarily, and then begin to dream. Will this fund the next research trip for the sequel? Will it provide money for passports for the kids? All of their homeschool education comes out of pocket so communally celebrating the rewards by furthering their world experience makes the most sense.
We clink glasses of a Sheehan bottle we’ve saved for awhile, totally enraptured in this, our moment. Gratitude, silliness, uncontained joy. Definitely a tithe, we remember now. The writing was meant to help our community, so this is an obvious sign we are in the right place doing the right thing. A tithe will complete that literacy program our church significantly supports. What do we do with the rest of it?
We consider a $200 getaway weekend (we can go at it cheaply in New Mexico) and further steam in the enriching affirmation I find so wonderful. And then it becomes obvious: our down payment. I’m a full-time homemaker who doesn’t monetarily add to “the vault”, as Hubs calls it. So far I’ve only participated by protecting it and allowing copious amounts of overtime. This bump in savings would allow us to leave a dangerous, cannibalistic neighborhood even sooner. Again, no permanent decisions until we’ve slept on it. But this grounding thought returns us from the high of anything-possibilities to our current dream growing bigger by the dollar.
I daydream of the future refuge we seek while window shopping on Sunday drives. It won’t be far now. And what a writer, artist, bookworm, and child’s paradise it is.
I set my bags down on the threshold and breathed in deeply.
This was my home, only mine, for the entire month of June.
Realizing my lifelong dream of being an actual published author of a work of fiction had been a dizzying whirl of deadlines, promotional tactics, emails, and a swiftly filling social calendar. In the wake of all this, I had decided to take a portion of my earnings to run away.
I needed time to let this all sink in, to appreciate this life goal being met, to get my bearings for the next idea. I wasn't even planning to do any writing, I just needed space. To remember who I was.
And so, here I was, suspended by a bridge to my very own treehouse villa, rented for a full month. No family or friends allowed.
I smiled to myself, and stepped through the door.
A Realistic Dream
(I've recently signed up with a literary agent so this could actually happen to me. Like most of my writing, this will be close to reality)
As a child, most of my aspirations were limited to chocolates, action-figures, sports equipment and food. I still am that person but I now have a few more goals. As I grew older, my father made me wiser (a bit). I now have a set of goals which include
- financial stability
- a writing career
- funding my travel and
- working on causes I believe in
I promised myself that my first paycheck would be split into five parts. Two years into the journey, nothing has changed.
Firstly, I'd have to treat my friends and family who have been supportive of my writing. The first part of this unexpected windfall would do that. I'd take them to a restaurant or take them on a trip (two birds with one stone) depending on the check. It could be anything between a meal at our favourite restaurant to a week in Bali.
The second part would involve adding some money to my savings. I'm a person with a background in finance. It would be very unlike me if I did not have savings on my mind. I have a diversified portfolio and I'd add money to this portfolio in my preferred proportions.
A writing career is my passion. While I love interacting with people and fans (I hope so), I'm not the best when it comes to marketing. I will set aside some money for a PR agency to help me build my presence as a writer. Who knows? If I can live from what I write, my passion and my profession would be the same. Isn't that a dream?
I love to travel. I travel once every quarter (at the least). I travel solo, with friends and with family with equal happiness. There have been a few trips that I have been postponing due to financial reasons. This would be the time to revisit the best of those plans.
Finally, I'm a person who loves to help people. I looked at a lot of causes and there were only two that resonated with me. 'Education for All' and 'Clean Environments'. I focused on the first. On October 18th 2021, I started the VK Scholarship (DEEPAM Venkatachalam - Kalyani Scholarship). I'd like to develop this and fund the education of a minimum of a hundred kids from underprivileged backgrounds.
I was once told that life doesn't wait for us. We need to try making every moment count. In every moment in my life now, I am working on all my dreams. That has made me one of the happiest people I know. This check for my writing, would help me do it better. Let me keep hoping.
(Thanks for setting up this topic. I don't know if I will win but was fun to write what was on my mind)
Publication of First Novel
It is a dream to have a novel or short story of mine to be published. I am very proud of a few and would love for the world to read them. If I were to receive a large check for my first novel, I first would get my girlfriend and I off the streets. We're currently homeless and jobless but surviving at most. Our families have been helpful but to a point and of course now is the time for our car to completely break down and stop working isn't it? Well that's exactly what happened. We're doing our best to keep positive, but it is so hard.
So my first plan would to be get us a new car, used but new to us. Something that will either house us or get us to our next jobs. Second, I would take my girlfriend on a loooong, much needed and deserved, vacation to Hawaii or somewhere else tropical and warm. I'd plan to go to big events and fancy restaurants with her.
Once we were done with our vacation, we would start looking at options for RV's or campers. Our goal is to travel the states and find small seasonal jobs here and there. We also would like to get some furry babies at some point. Most likely cats, orange cats are the best, but I would love a pitbull or a great dane doggo too. We would use the money not only to get animals, but also donate a chunk of it to whichever shelter we adopt from. I have a friend who is very involved in PAWS and I would love to be a part of that too by adopting and donating.
Finally, once our little family has grown, I would get us a place to settle down and find permanent jobs. I would love to start out in an apartment, something small but manageable. We then would save up to get our dream home and grow old together.
If there is anything left over, I would donate to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. When I was 10 years old, I went to Chili's with my mom and that's when the kids menu would have a picture of a kiddo from the hospital and their story. Even at 10 it broke my heart to see them suffering due to something not one single human can control. I decided, instead of asking for presents for my birthday that year, I would ask for people to donate toys, hygiene items, gift cards, and many other items to help those in need. To this day, that has been one of my proudest moments and I would make sure they knew I was still in support.
I hope this happens one day. I would lose my mind and be ever so grateful. My dream is to be known artistically. So I hope one day my dream comes true.
Thank you for reading!
Thanks to My Novel
Receiving that substantial check for my debut novel was like a dream come true. It was a moment I had always envisioned but never truly believed would happen. Now, with this unexpected windfall in my hands, I needed to decide how to make the most of it.
First and foremost, I wanted to secure my financial future. I'd heard enough stories of writers who had tasted success only to find themselves struggling later on. So, a substantial portion of the money would go towards responsible investments and savings. It was my way of ensuring that I wouldn't have to worry about the basics and could continue pursuing my writing passion without undue financial stress.
However, I couldn't help but indulge in a bit of a splurge. I'd always dreamed of a cozy cabin tucked away in the mountains, a writer's retreat where I could find inspiration in the tranquility of nature. So, I decided to use some of the funds to make that dream a reality. It wasn't extravagant, but it was a place where creativity would flow freely, and I could immerse myself in the worlds I created.
Then, there was the matter of giving back. I'd grown up with a strong sense of community, and I knew that I wanted to use this opportunity to support causes that mattered to me. A portion of the money would be donated to local charities and initiatives focused on education and literacy. I wanted to pay it forward, recognizing that my success was built on the foundation of education and a love for books.
One thing that excited me most was the chance to embark on a passion project. I'd always been fascinated the story of the great Amelia Earhart . With the financial cushion this windfall provided, I could now dedicate the time and resources needed to research and write a book about her. This project felt like a labor of love, an opportunity to dive deep into a subject that had long captivated my imagination.
Lastly, I couldn't forget my support system. My family and close friends had been my pillars of strength throughout my writing journey. They had cheered me on during the tough times and celebrated with me during the good ones. I wanted to share some of this newfound success with them, perhaps by organizing a special gathering or helping them pursue their own dreams and aspirations.
In the end, my plan for the windfall was a mix of prudence, indulgence, generosity, and creativity. It was about ensuring financial stability, fulfilling personal dreams, giving back to the community, pursuing a writing passion, and expressing gratitude to those who had stood by my side. This windfall wasn't just about money; it was about making the most of an unexpected opportunity to shape my future as a writer and a person.