Artistic Work and Compensation

I am loath to admit it, but I haven’t been very productive since returning from the UnCon two weeks ago.

That’s partly due to the settling-in process required after traveling. You know, laundry, stocking the pantry, making sure bills are paid, and so on.

But like most writers I know, I’m bad about protecting my writing time. I am my own worst enemy, filling that time with errands, chores, or extra time at work.

I think some of my bad habits are driven by guilt. Since my writing isn’t paying much (if any) income, it’s sometimes hard to justify the hours spent for the income received. (You can learn more about writers’ income from the Authors Guild’s 2018 Author Income Survey.)

But I also think a large part of my inability to prioritize my writing is culturally driven.

The Internet makes it easy for people to avoid paying creatives for our work. I know people who boast about how they watch every Hollywood blockbuster online thanks to Chinese pirates. I know people who seek out ways to get their music online without paying. I know people who will only read the free or $0.99 books on their Kindles because they’re unwilling to pay more than that for a book. (And don’t get me started on the fake books we now know is shipping.)

Hell, even I am guilty of failing to pay creatives for their time. I want to play games on my phone but balk at the idea of paying the developers to buy the app. (That’s a bit of hypocrisy Jen called me on recently. And she’s right that I’m hypocritical. I’ll work to change that.)

I have the good fortune to know actors, musicians, writers, photographers, and others doing creative work. Across the board, all of them are struggling to make a living wage as artists.

In the arts, very few artists become as financially successful as Lin-Manuel Miranda, James Patterson, or Prince. Most artists work on their craft as a sideline. And that, I think, makes it easier for those enjoying art (I’m deliberately avoiding the word “consumer” here) to devalue the work.

I’m not sure how to fix the problem, but I think we’re reaching a crisis point. We talk about retail and food service workers who don’t earn living wages from their jobs, and I think we need to bring artistic workers into that discussion.

(Photo by Fiona Smallwood on Unsplash)

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