Writing and Money – Yes there IS a Connection

I was really hoping to go rant-free for a while, maybe a month. Really, I tried…

During a recent writer’s chat on Twitter an old myth came to light once again. What is it?

You are either a “starving artist” or you are a “sell-out” and not a real artist. Art is above money!

To put even more simply:
Making money = selling out
Making real art = starving artist

Before getting into why this is so wrong, I have to say this view should die a horrible miserable death!

Why?

Ask any of these professionals that have spent years learning a skill-set and continue to learn, hone, practice, and become professionals that they should work for free:

  • Doctors
  • Lawyers
  • Teachers
  • Programmers
  • Engineers
  • Architects
  • Scientist
  • (and too many more to list)

I’m guessing they would have choice words about your lack of respect for their skills. Oh, and call them a ‘sell-out’ while you’re at it. I dare you.

Yet, when we move to the arts there is a very common perception, even among the artists themselves, that we should not expect money. Oh, it’s a nice bonus, but don’t expect it.

This is the ideal: Artist, expect to live in poverty. Expect to starve. Expect to never bring in enough to provide shelter for them or their family. This is ROMANTIC. This is what is expected. If it doesn’t happen this way, you are a failure and don’t deserve to call yourself a real ARTIST.

Now, replace ‘artist’ with ‘writer.’

Right now, I want to yell a word that is something you find in a cow field. Think steaming and stinky.

A Problem With the Ideal

Let’s see…

  • Years of learning.
  • Years of research.
  • Years of PRACTICE.
  • Years of classes, workshops, and books.
  • All of the above never stops because none of us are perfect!
  • Hours and hours spent to create each work.
  • Business education so we aren’t taken like sheep to a slaughter by corporations who are ALL about the profit. (those who do not pursue this type of education typically don’t survive very long except by sheer blind luck)

We spend years and decades honing our skill-set and craft, but money shouldn’t come into it? Because something is labeled ‘art?’

I love writing. I will always write. HOWEVER…

When my writing is published, or I start a work that I expect to be published, I have a legitimate reason to believe I should be given compensation for the years of work and dedication and skills that went into creating the work. When I start a work with a view towards publication and GASP! money, it is not a disservice to my years (and continuing) training. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

I train to hone my craft. I practice. I actively try to learn. With more training and skills I can earn more money. Money to LIVE on so I can continue to hone my craft, gain more training, develop more skills. I am not a hobbyist. I don’t have time to waste on things that take so much knowledge but gives no return.

Does this view make me a capitalist? If being a capitalist means eating, having basic clothes and shelter, then YES! Or a “sell out”, then YES I am. Let me emphasize this: YES YES YES!

An Artistic Capitalist!

An author creating a work has brought something into existence from nothing. A new work. A new story. New characters and settings. It did not exist before!

It was created with skills learned over years. While writing does bring a lot of joy, it is also a lot of hard work. It is ‘value creation’ for the benefit of those who find value in your form of art.

Is this to be viewed as a nothing? Is a car viewed as a nothing when it’s designed and put together? If so, I want a really cheap or free car, please.

Creating something another values is not a sell-out. It is not selfish. It is not evil capitalism. It is quite the opposite. Providing more value for those same people by creating even more, is not a sell-out. It is providing something special and unique for someone who appreciates it.

The Choices

A person has only so much time in a day, so an artist/writer have two choices:

1. Take a ‘day job’ and help SOMEONE ELSE make money and write a little bit on the side if you still have the energy.
OR
2. Write with a view towards compensation and make money FOR YOURSELF (oh horrors, I mentioned money!) and write MORE.

Well, duh, which one do you think I will pick? As someone who LOVES to write?

Wow, the opportunity to write more, to create more, to tell more stories? Not having a ‘day job’ or ‘survival job’ stealing away precious energy and time?

The labels of ‘capitalist’ and ‘sell out’ have an interesting source. Most of it comes from the rest of the author/artist community (mostly by unemployed or under-paid). I’ve not heard this coming from anyone who is making a living off their art/writing. A touch of jealousy at another’s success or expectations, perhaps?

A professional writer is in business for themselves just like so many in the business world. It is a valid career. Just because the profession is viewed as ‘artistic’ does not change this.

The Realities

We live in a cash society. Verbal accolade do not provide the necessities of life. Art for art’s sake has a place, but not at the cost of feeding yourself. Or at the cost of producing MORE art.

So, to say that craft and skill and art have nothing to do with money and SHOULDN’T have anything to do with money? That the two should not be viewed together?

Go get a life. But, don’t expect it to be any of the so-called non-artistic professionals. After all, you just said there shouldn’t be a view towards money, much less the necessities of life in anything requiring skills…

End the ‘starving’. Get a backbone, let go of the fear, and start viewing what you do as having worth. It begins in the mind.

Rant over (and yes, I need to stop joining in on twitter writing chats. ARGH!)

____________________

J.A. Marlow

My latest novel, The String Weavers (The String Weavers – Book 1), is now available at online retailers everywhere.

Kelsey Hale thinks she’s just a typical mixed-up teenager. Everyone feels that way, her teachers assure her. Yet, strange things happen to her, like food disappearing before she can eat it and hearing music no one else hears.

Then a giant flaming bird drops an alien at her feet. Well, good grief, how can you ignore something like that?

Abducted from Earth, the only planet she’s ever known, Kelsey finds herself thrust into the middle of a deadly conflict among alien worlds and parallel universe. She must not only survive herself, but also find a way to rescue her father from a dangerous group with unknown motives.

In the process, she’s confronted by a hidden secret about herself which will shake the very foundation of who and what she thought she was.

And connecting it all are the mysterious Weavers.

A 97,100 word science fiction novel.

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4 comments on “Writing and Money – Yes there IS a Connection
  1. “Creating something another values is not a sell-out. It is not selfish. It is not evil capitalism. It is quite the opposite. Providing more value for those same people by creating even more, is not a sell-out. It is providing something special and unique for someone who appreciates it.”

    I agree completely.

    But I feel I must nitpick.

    There is no such thing as evil capitalism. Capitalism, free trade, the marketplace…whatever you want to call it…is exactly what you just described: producing something that someone values, and getting value back in return. We measure that value in monetary terms, but that’s irrelevant. People want and need THINGS, and exchange money to get those things from people who produce them, who in turn use that money get what they need or want from someone else. It makes no difference whether the thing being exchanged for is a piece of art or a toaster. It also makes no difference whether the people doing the exchanging are individuals or groups of individuals who, for convenience sake, call themselves businesses or corporations. It’s all, economically at least, the same. Trade, which is what we’re talking about here, is good. Trade between mutually consenting parties makes both parties better off and increases the net wealth in the world.

    I realize you know all of this, so I guess I’ll offer an apology for my own little rant. But the “evil corporation” and “evil capitalism” memes really bug me. Might as well say “evil freedom”, because that’s what the person mouthing such tripe really means.

    The worst part is that those who say such things live in luxury that was unimaginable to even the richest people just a century and a half ago. That luxury is only possible because of the “evil capitalists” who run the “evil corporations” that they deride so readily.

    No other economic system works as well, because no other economic system is in tune with human nature and the laws of economics. Just like the laws of physics, you can’t change the laws of economics and you can’t get around them.

    • JA Marlow says:

      Michael, the interesting thing about this chat is that one person was the “Art has nothing to do with money” and another who (whom I found later) followed me and is all about “Capitalism is evil. Socialism all the way, baby.” Wow. Talk about slammed in the middle, and I don’t like either extreme. This, by the way, is there the ‘evil capitalism’ comment came from. It bugged me, too, which is why it showed up in my own rant. :P

  2. I would ask what was the commentor’s objective? To get you to lower your prices? Not likely! You control that. To get an argument started on Twitter? Probably! To get attention? Probably!

    The sad fact is knowledge is available for all, but each has to learn at their own pace and some learn very slowly. I prefer to spend my energy writing more good stories and leave others to their own beliefs, whether correct or not. :-)

    • JA Marlow says:

      The point of the comment was to put down anyone who would dare to put money anywhere in the art equation. Probably to elevate themselves at the expense of someone else. Really, I dealt with this type of issue in elementary school. I wasn’t impressed then.

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