Writers are a needy bunch.
We want people to like us, to like our work, to reassure us we are smart enough and talented enough to continue doing this thing we love so much.
It’s part of the reason the myth of the starving artist is so pervasive. Instead of being a treatise on the abysmal way this country treats its creatives, it becomes a mantle, a badge of honor that many writers (and other artists) wear with pride.
Instead of being honest that we don’t feel like we’re good enough to make a career of writing or that we don’t even know where to begin to get paid for our work, we proclaim that we don’t do it for the money, that we do it for the love of the craft.
I mean, I love writing too, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to get paid for it.
This need for validation is what makes writers ripe for exploitation. When you don’t believe you’re truly worthy of being a writer anyone can just come along, show you a little love and get you to write for them for free.
I love your work they will say.
But when it comes time to pay, well, they don’t have any money for that.
They want you to do it for the exposure.
But you don’t do this for money, right? You’re a real artist they remind you. The love of the craft is what’s important not something so base as money.
This love of the craft doesn’t stop them from using your hard work to make them money, however. Go figure.
Now, I expect this attitude for those who are looking for free labor. Who wouldn’t want a pool of workers who only need to be paid in atta boys and accolades?
The real problem with this attitude is when it is perpetuated by other writers.
It doesn’t take much to find writers who attempt to shame other writers for writing for money. Their arguments are always the same:
- If you’re only in it for money, you aren’t a real artist. You’re inauthentic, they say.
- If you truly loved writing, if you were really serious about it, you would do it even if you weren’t getting paid, they say.
- True artists write because they are called to do so. Money is just an added bonus, they say.
I’m going to be blunt. If you’re writing for the love of writing than you’re a hobbyist.
There’s nothing wrong with being a hobbyist, but you aren’t in a position to dictate to the rest of us who make a career of writing how real or authentic we are.
Realness, authenticity comes from the work you produce, not whether you’re paid for it or not.
Shaming other writers for doing what many think is impossible, earning a living from their work, is cowardly, rude, and counterproductive.
We should be working together to figure out how more of us can get paid to do what we love. Not tear down those who’ve managed to find success.
There is no shame in wanting to get paid for your work.
In fact, in a capitalist society, it is the one way to know whether or not you’re good at what you do. Having someone pay you for something, to commission you for work is the best “atta boy” you can get.
It is real tangible proof that what you’re doing has value and, better still, you can use the funds to cover expenses such as food, shelter, and clothing.
No starving required.
You can’t do that with exposure. As the saying goes, people die from exposure.