Way back in ancient times, the ’90s, my mom and I were discussing a then-current event: a writer and his wife were divorcing. As part of the deal, the wife wanted future royalties of the books her husband wrote while they were together.
At first, I baulked. He wrote them. Those were his blood, sweat and tears on those pages. My mom, however, pointed out that, yes he did the physical writing, but what about the support she provided…didn’t I ever bounce ideas off of someone? Didn’t someone cook and clean for me while I wrote (at this point in time, that would have been her)?
I look around me today and I see people I’ve bounced things off of, people who have helped generate ideas, people who revise and edit and critique, and, yes, someone who does the dishes and laundry…thanks honey! It takes quite a village to bring a creation to life. But would all of them get a cut of the royalties? I’m still not really keen on that, but I can see my mom’s point.
I couldn’t remember who this writer was, but Tom Clancy kept rattling around in my brain, so I looked him up. Sure enough, he and his wife had a decade long “custody” battle over the character Jack Ryan*. But, I’m sure it’s not surprising, the situation was a little more complicated than a simple divorce and a royalty check. A jointly owned corporation that owned the naming rights to video-games and the whole Ryan empire was what the original article quaintly called the books’ royalties. I think corporations go a smidgen beyond royalty check.
This is the extreme example of creation gone awry. Usually, I see people celebrate when they’ve helped create something — and they’re celebrating the person for the creation, not their addition to it. I suppose marriage and millions complicate matters some.
Have you thought about all the people who help you with your writing/creative pursuits?
Have you ever seen helping go awry? Does that make you more guarded with your creations or your critiques?
*I don’t actually know how that sorted out. I googled “Tom Clancy Divorce Ruling” and got a lot of articles from the midst of the process. None of the articles seems to have been written after the fact when the ruling came down. There was a ruling, in PDF, which I didn’t read because my eyes glazed over at the legalese.