Sep 182014
 
writer-at-work-229x300Colleague/Acquaintance (and possibly Friend? I always feel a bit weird using that word if it’s someone I don’t hang out with regularly. We have a great time when we’re together somewhere, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to her house for a party, or vica-versa, and I don’t want to make claims to a friendship that isn’t actually there. Due to a very isolated childhood I consider people either very-close friends or strangers, and I’m not sure what to label the in-between areas. So lets go with Acquaintance) Rachael Acks posted yesterday about the Amazon/Hachette throw-down. I have one point of disagreement in a large (and well-written) post, so as dictated by long internet tradition I will now blog about that disagreement and not comment on anything else. 
> Companies are not going to value us or our work as long as we treat it as a thing without value. This is our problem to solve, because we let this happen. […] we’re too fucking cowardly and blind as a society to smack [corporations] with a rolled up newspaper and say NO.
 
That’s all well and good to say, but the problem with us doing anything is that the vast majority of us aren’t controlled by me. While making money off writing is the dream, it is not the reason that anyone I know of writes. People write for the same reason they create music, or act, or make any other piece of art – to be seen by others. That’s putting it crudely, it’d be more charitable to say something like “To touch others, and connect in a more fundamental way through sharing this piece of ourselves.” But you can’t do that without being seen. The real payment is wide-spread publication, the money is just a bonus. Everyone I know who writes would still write for free if getting paid for it wasn’t an option. Heck, Rachael published free fanfic and raved about how good it felt.
 
So while one can say “We should all stop devaluing our work! No more providing Service X (stories, in this case) without decent compensation!”, how does one actually stop the vast majority of writers who just want to be noticed and appreciated from making their work available, without compensation? Force is out, and social shaming is becoming less and less popular. Even Rachael spoke out against it (see previous link). As long as people love to write and do it for it’s own sake, wages of writing will be depressed. It’s the same reason that it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a straight male porn actor. People would do it for free in their spare time, so why would producers pay extra?
 
Money is used as a motivator to get people to do things they don’t want to do. I would not be doing accounting in my spare time if I was independently wealthy. I’d drop that like a chocolate donut I picked up and then realized was actually a round-shaped turd. People generally don’t get paid to do things that people love to do for their own sake (like eating actual chocolate donuts).
 
Every year a few people win the Writing Lottery for reasons that appear to be entirely random, and they can make a career of it. I admire them, and wish them all the best. I read quite a few of them. If I were to ever win that lottery for doing something I already love to do, I would be crazy happy about it. But I don’t count on it. I expect, like almost everyone, to hold down a job that produces something people need enough that they’re willing to give someone else money to produce it, and also write when I have time simply for the love of writing. If I can make some money on the side, all the better.

 

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