For most of my undergraduate career, and since graduating in 2014, I have spent vast amounts of my time developing myself as a writer. Many weeks, it is all that I do when I’m not at my day job. I have made many mistakes, produced some horrible writing, and am nowhere near a best-seller. In my least encouraged moments, I wonder why I continue to do it. Why spend so much of my life on a dream that may only earn money and acclaim when I’m dead—if at all? The answer: I am making the writer’s wager.
The nature of the wager is simple, and anyone may bet. The odds are long, but the payoff is immense. All one needs to bring is one’s life, which one exchanges for an immense load of chips to be used at the betting table. These chips are bet over years, and many of them will most certainly be lost. Many people will part with all of them, and more still will give up halfway through the game—they will change their chips for the remaining fraction of their lives, and move on. But a few, a very few, will play and win.
I have been sitting at the table for more than four years, and although I’ve won a few hands here and there, my chip count is down overall. I am hemorrhaging the little pieces of plastic: the white ones are worth an hour, the red ones are a day, the blue ones are a weekend, the green ones are vacation days from work, and the black ones are a summer. Every day I lose some white chips, every month I lose plenty of reds and blues, and every year I lose the dismal rainbow.
As I write this article, I am throwing a fistful of white chips forward. My hand is OK, nothing spectacular. But what are a couple of lost hours when I have already bet and lost years of my youth? Not much, really. I don’t agonize over the white chips anymore—but at the end of each month when I count how much I’m down, I sometimes wonder whether I should leave the table.
The conclusion that I have repeatedly come to is to keep my seat. With full knowledge of the losses I have already incurred, and those that I stand to sustain in the future, I keep my seat. Why? I admit plainly that I have become obsessed with the game. Perhaps, eventually, if I have lost half of my chips, the thrill of it will finally wear off. I would join the crowds of people claiming their fraction of a life at the counter.
But I do not think that will happen. My winnings are not substantial, but they come more often than they used to. As it turns out, this game has a strategy, if only one will learn it. It does not guarantee the grand prize, but it does mean a likely profit overall. You see, if I win a hand after having thrown down enough chips, the house does not push more chips back to me. Instead, they slide books. Books with glossy covers. Books with my name on them.
I may never win the jackpot, even after having thrown in every last chip I have. But I accept that that is part of the game. My only concern now is to wager well. In the end, when all my chips are gone, I will perhaps have no money and no fame. But I will have a nice pile of books.