Yeah, whatever happened to starving like a *real* artist? 8

Sameer Rahim, are you fucking kidding me?

I know people rarely get to write their own headlines, so I tried not to just punch my laptop in the screen when I saw this one: Whatever happened to writing for love, not money?

But the article isn’t any better.

I know they have to eat, but when did it all become about the money? The time when writers could live comfortably off their income was an anomaly of the Eighties and Nineties. These days, apart from a few big-money payouts for the next big thing, publishers are going back to being as cautious as they were before. And why shouldn’t they? Everyone else is tightening their belts.

I know you have kids and a mortgage, guys, but why should you expect to be able to make a living off a craft you’ve been perfecting for years? The art should be its own reward! Starving is awesome, it makes you all thin and waif-like and then maybe you’ll get consumption and it’s so romantic.

Call me a romantic but it might actually benefit a writer not to rely on books as their main source of income.

There is nothing in that sentence that I would call romantic. Because there is nothing in the least bit romantic about having to work a shit job to make ends meet while you attempt to write in your rapidly dwindling spare time. There is also nothing in the least bit romantic about working an awesome office day job like I do and then attempting to write in your rapidly dwindling spare time.

I would actually argue that there’s some good to doing a bit of work, volunteer or otherwise, outside your field at all times just because it gives you a chance to meet people and be in new situations and talk to others you wouldn’t necessarily talk to. That’s idea fuel right there. But trying to work two full time jobs is a good way to destroy your health and sanity and never have time to recharge.

Alternatively, I have heard it suggested that, rather as the bankers were bailed out by the, state so authors should be given public subsidies – the perils of which should be obvious. This isn’t China.

Yeah, I know man. Writers and dancers and sculptors won’t stop trying to crash the economy with their irresponsible gambling. (Also, special bonus for gross China reference. A+)

Luckily, the freedom offered by the internet offers a chance to resurrect the idea of writing for love, not money.

The notion was never dead. People have always been writing for love rather than money. The internet just makes distribution easier.

So far online self-publishing has been the preserve of fan fiction and erotica but it can’t be long before high-quality fiction starts to emerge.

Wow. Every time I think you can’t get more insulting, you do. Frankly, there is plenty of fanfic out there that is of publishable quality. And there’s also some damn good erotica out there too.

Right now there is a distressed writer sitting in front of her computer somewhere, worrying not about whether she’ll make enough money to give up the day job or how many copies she will sell, but obsessing over form and language, meaning and truth.

Yeah, and you know what helps the writer hone those skills that go into the art? Having some fucking time to practice them. If you’re working 40+ hours a week (and heaven help you if you have kids) your time to practice the actual craft of writing is severely limited. And then on top of it when more and more often you’re having to act as your own publicist? Eats up even more of that time. And what your readers want are books, regular as clockwork, and those books are damn hard to write and much slower to produce if they are not the main focus of your energy.

So what, people should only get paid for doing work they find hideous and agonizing? The only people who should get paid, then, are perhaps janitors, garbagemen, soldiers, and so on. Not politicians or professional athletes or scientists. Certainly not successful actors or dancers or fashion designers. Or are artists just the exception to the rule because we don’t actually produce something you deem personally worthy? Or is it just writers who are the exception, because we’re not real in our art unless we’re fucking miserable?

(This ignores the fact that being fucking miserable and depressed is not a good way to produce art.)

What bothers me most about this piece, which is so full of bullshit the stench will never leave my keyboard, is the idea that you should be happy not getting paid for work so long as it’s work you enjoy. Work is work. It requires time and energy and a big chunk of the limited lifespan you have on Earth if you want to be any good at it. And this same argument has been used for years to try to justify things like keeping the wages of teachers severely depressed. Yeah, you teach because you love it, right? It’s so irresponsible of you to want to make a decent living. The smiles of children and the glow of a job well done should pay for your housing and the clothing of your own children.

Tell me, Mr. Rahim, did you write this piece for free?

8 thoughts on “Yeah, whatever happened to starving like a *real* artist?

  1. Reply Thomas Pluck Aug 22,2014 10:47

    It was “an anomaly of the 80s and 90s” my ass. When I hear of the per-word payments and advances of the 30s during the Depression it sounds like what we call a “fucking good deal” these days, barely adjusted for inflation. The profit has gone to the top.
    Journalists are next, right?

  2. Reply JohnD Aug 22,2014 11:50

    I suppose he’s never heard of Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, or Alexandre Dumas. These guys were three of the best writers of their period and are still highly regarded in serious literature circles. Oh, yeah – and they all wrote for pay. Their works would be serialized, chapter by chapter, and then the final novels would be bound together and sold all over again.

    This nonsense of “writing for love” is merely the author’s desire for a romantic literary Erewhon. I suspect that he would have a much more balanced perspective if he had ever tried to make three bags of ramen and a bowl of beans last for a week (the standard fare of struggling artists, graduate students, and people who “write for love”).

  3. Reply mikes75 Aug 22,2014 12:49

    “This nonsense of “writing for love” is merely the author’s desire for a romantic literary Erewhon.”

    More than that, it’s become the bullshit line used by people looking to get cheap/free copy out of artists. “Do it because you love it, and by the way, can I get 1,000 words on X for tomorrow’s paper? You’ll get great exposure!”

  4. Reply Janiece Aug 22,2014 14:53

    I’m not even a writer and that “exposure” line still makes me throw up in my mouth.

    Also, where’s my next Captain Ramos story? You should TOTALLY quit your well-paid professional day job and write full time because you loves it, precious.


  5. Reply Rachael Aug 22,2014 14:55

    Soon, I hope! There’s a new novella waiting on edits, and I put together a collection of all the year one stuff with extra content in it. So… soon, hopefully. :)

  6. Reply Keeley Aug 22,2014 19:57

    I want to feed him to Harlan Ellison…

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