A look at erroneous ideas surrounding writers and money.
There is a longstanding idea in our society that writers should not always expect to be paid for their writing. Those who espouse this opinion often justify it with one or a composite of the following ideas:
“Exposure is just as good/better than being paid.”
“Writers should just be glad anybody reads their work at all.”
“Writers write for fun, and they should be okay with just having an audience/ you don’t get paid for having fun.”
“Charging money for your writing degrades the craft of writing.”
“Writing is unnecessary.”
Let’s take a look at each of these beliefs, shall we?
For emerging writers, exposure can be a blessing even if you do not get paid. I am blogging after all to build an audience. Simply seeing your name in print can be validating. Writers can also reach readers by giving out some freebies on occasion. But taking all these actions to the extreme deprives writers of the financial compensation of which they are worthy and, most importantly, of the means to support themselves.
As far as being glad anyone reads your work at all, sure writers are generally tickled pink to gain fans, however that does not negate the need to keep a roof over your head. Romantic notions of writers living in ramshackle apartments or holed up above cafes in glamorous cities not knowing where their next meal will come from are unrealistic and only romantic in movies where you know the writer characters are going to make it big.
With regards to not getting paid to have fun…there are doctors, lawyers, engineers, fashion-designers, teachers, and truckdrivers who enjoy their jobs, but they all still get paid –exactly as they should! Just because a person enjoys something does not mean they should not receive money in return.
The idea that charging money for a service somehow “defiles” it is to me unbelievably erroneous. This is a common problem among artists of all sorts as well as those who work in the complimentary/alternative medicine fields — massage therapists, Reiki masters, etc. Money has gotten a bit of a bad reputation in Western culture. We are taught to go out and make money but also told that “money is the root of all evil”. (I would say human greed is the root of all evil is much more accurate.) Many spiritual paths that revolve around a doctrine of self-denial and the righteousness of poverty also promote shame around living an abundant life. These are massively disempowering ideas that seep into a lot of writers’ brains by default. Money at its most basic is another form of embodied energy, one that enables us to feed ourselves and our families and to help others in need as well. Life becomes stressful when you do not have enough money and stress hampers creativity. Paying someone for their time and services or charging money for services rendered is perfectly moral.
But I think the most egregious idea yet is the last one: that writing is unnecessary. Writing, and any other artistic pursuits, are not unnecessary. They give tired minds an opportunity to relax and heal, they inspire us to be our best selves, they instruct us and add a spectacular rainbow of color to our world. Can you imagine a world in which there were no books, no paintings, no music? I can — and it would be a world I would not want to inhabit for long. The arts preserve the very history of humanity. If we think that is unnecessary for our growth as human beings, we have failed.
So do not feel guilty about wanting to be paid for your writing. It’s natural, it’s ethical, and it does not degrade the very act of writing. May you become a best seller! 🙂
What do you think? What was the lamest reason you ever heard for writers not being paid? Share with me in the comments!