The check seems lighter than a feather between my fingertips. It's not that much, enough to take a girl to dinner, no more. But on the memo line she wrote the words "for one story".

I have sold my first story. I have been paid for my words. I am now, if not quite a professional, at least something more than a rank amateur. That little check means somebody thought my words were good enough to spend money on.

Robert Heinlein once wrote that 90% of the people who say they write never finish anything. Ninety percent of those who finish never submit. Ninety percent of those never find publication. Ninety percent of them never get paid. So I have joined the top one hundreth of one percent of all writers.

Three cheers for me. But that check does not make me the second coming of Gene Wolfe. Connie Willis will not find her agent leaving messages on my answering machine. My sordid little tale will not win a single award. The chasm between myself and those great writers seems wider than it did the day I first picked up pen and paper.

But i have this check, and I'll aways have it, whether I cash it or not. Writing involves lots of nights when words will not come. Days when your work all seems awful. Days when you don't want to work at all. A check, however small, is important when the words come out hard or wrong. It's proof that if I try, they will eventually come out right.