Like any part of an author’s voice, artistic choices can be affected by strange and unexpected boundaries.
When I was in high school, we always had the most “interesting” time debating the teacher why the authors of Russian classics like Dostoevsky or Tolstoy felt the need to use five pages just to describe a single tree next to the train tracks. There were many opinions, of course.
Lately, I stumbled upon the correct answer, quite enlightening, logical, and final.
☀️They were paid per the written word☀️.
Full stop, debate over, their artistic choice completely clear.
Being a skeptic, I fact-checked it with a historian who particularly focuses on Russia. Turns out, the door-stopping power of those classics was not the only consequence of them being paid like that. Some manuscripts from that time contained exactly the number of words that were agreed – 10.000 words, and not one more. Because “that’s what the bloodsucking publisher paid for, and that’s what he is getting – and not a word extra”.
The point of this story? Take care not just how much you are being paid for your expertise, but also how is your value measured.
As War and Peace shows us, that method may end up having long-term consequences on your work in general.