writers. stop writing for free.

Pay your goddamn writers.

Exposure doesn’t fill my tank up with gas. It does not pay my water bill and or put greens on my kids plates. It doesn’t pay my rent. Or my internet bill. The electric company doesn’t take exposure in lieu of cash. It’s lovely to expand the circle, yes, this is true, but it’s still not a paycheck.

The emptiness, the flippant use of the word “content” is making me want to hurl numb-chucks at people, like content isn’t actually the outcome of the action, the work of “writing”, like content is just a “thing” that happens. But content- it’s actually words- words people write, words that fill pages and websites, words that offer stories, words that sell and attack, words that invoke images, ideas, expression, research, information, thoughts. Words that innovate. Words that change lives. Words that heal. Words that start revolutions. Words that make people laugh. Words that are utterly delicious and sensual to consume.

To all the big hubs of “free content websites” or even worse, the ones with “memberships” I have a question. Do you think we, as writers, just sh*t all these words out while looking all pretty and relaxed while we are asleep? Like we wake up and there is a pile of writing next to us in bed? Have you SEEN me write? The way my brow tightens and my leg twitches, and how I don’t blink and my eyes squint and I forget to take a pee or drink a sip of water for hours until I get a piece right? Have you seen how my kid can come up to me {because fuck right I can’t afford an office away from the home with all this free content flying around} and literally scream in my face that they are bleeding to death and I don’t even bat an eyelash because I am trying to get a sentence exactly the way I want it to be? That shit is for real. That shit is work.

Listen, I used to not pay writers once too, when I published a gorgeous, ad-free magazine, my pay to contributors was “exposure” {and a free digital download of the mag of course}- but we made no money and certainly we were not proud to *not* be paying our people. It made me sick each month. I couldn’t wait until the day we could cut our writers a check, because it was the WRITERS THAT MADE THE MAGAZINE. We knew this. And paying was always the plan. HuffPost should be ashamed for actually being proud of itself for figuring out how to get a shit ton of writers to write for free. Elephant Journal should be too. Spiritual hog-wash if you can’t offer real money in return for blood, sweat, tears in the form of voice. Anyone who is making money and still does not pay their writers for writing (aka your *content*) you need to realize that houses don’t stay up without the beams inside the walls. You can build the foundation. You can throw a roof up there. But without those supporting beams it can’t hold anything up.

Where is the union? Whose going on strike with me? How can we demand payment for all these words we send out all the time, because we aren’t going to stop writing. If you are a writer, you know what I mean. We can’t. It’s impossible. Be we can withhold. I’ll write for free for myself, on my own site, always. I will also be honored to be in art and literary journals with no budgets that are alive for no other reason but to share the art. And my friends with no budgets, always come to me for support, I am here for you. But this constant flow of writing for nothing… has got to end.

Writers: Stop. Writing. For. Free. (Yes I’m yelling at you).

Would you ask your contractor to build your new kitchen for free? For exposure because your kitchen is going to have some really amazing people coming over for a visit? Or your dentist because you smile so much and people will just know he’s a great dentist when you flash them a grin? Or your life coach because your life just looks so damn good from the outside? Of course not. Sadly you might even be a writer turned life coach because you had to do something else, because everyone is just writing for free, and nobody is sure is hell gonna pay you when there is a trabillion people all willing to put out with no return, or I’m sorry, for exposure.

I spent a pretty penny for that almost MFA that has put me in loan default. I don’t want to have to offer programs or tell you how to get rich or sell you essential oils or whatever to support my “free writing habit”. I have been doing this gig for 20 years now. I want my writing to be seen as worthy of monetary energy exchange on it’s own, because they are good words, good words that attract readers.

When I write. I give all of me. I don’t give just a little. I give all. All is art. This is why we are desired. Because we give ourselves. And ourselves are really, really good.

Writing takes me time. It takes my energy. It takes me away from my family. And it’s filled with the breath of life. It’s important. It’s our writing that keeps this internet thing kinda alive and interesting and booming and people coming back for more. Enough is enough. Share the wealth. Because all this writing? Just in case you didn’t know, it doesn’t write itself.

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