Thursday, November 30, 2017

Just Because You're Having Fun, That Doesn't Mean You Shouldn't Get Paid

I have come to the conclusion that no matter who you are, if you expect to get paid for something that other people do for fun, you are going to get a lot of angry messages on your social media feed. I was recently reminded of this when I published the post What Does It Take To Be A Professional DM?, since about half the comments left on it were some variation of, "how about you not be a piece of shit, and try to make money off something people do to have fun?"

Of course, you know, this means war!
It is worth noting that no one who read that post claimed that being a dungeon master was easy (because it isn't). No one argued that it doesn't take skill to be a dungeon master, or that it didn't take time, energy, and investment to make sure an entire table of players had a good time. The main source of outrage, paraphrased, was that the commenters were willing to do all that stuff for free, and for their personal enjoyment. So anyone who participated in that hobby as a for-profit enterprise was clearly doing it wrong, and they should be shunned for polluting the purity of a fun hobby by twisting it into a source of income.

Think about that for a moment. Someone who is willing to do a difficult job that is often in demand, spending copious amounts of their own time, energy, and often money to provide a positive, engaging, entertaining experience for other people should never, ever make a profit off of that. They should just enjoy the activity, and that's that.

Replace being a dungeon master with being a blogger, a video creator, an author, a painter, a sculptor, or any other creative activity, and you'll get much the same result. Without fail.

Your Job Isn't Supposed To Be Miserable, You Know

Kara Dennison recently hit the nail on the head with her post Creativity For A Living: The Curse of The Jobbing Hobbyist. The post touched on the usual suspects, such as how it's hard to be creative on a deadline, and how difficult it is to get people to see that art is neither frivolous, nor a luxury, but that it is a necessary good that's consumed in huge quantities every day. However, the third point in the post is one of the most important, I think.

Simply put, the money you're paid is for your time, and your effort. It is not to compensate you for doing a job you hate, or that makes you miserable.

There is no fringe benefit that can stop making me feel empty inside.
This is something a lot of folks overlook. The main reason they overlook it, I feel, is that when someone writes, draws, or plays a game as a hobby, they tend to do it for their own amusement. You draw when you feel like it. You write when you're inspired. You're not thinking about what would get the most hits on social media, or what would look good on a tee shirt, or wondering if you can finish the project fast enough to get it on the slate before the next convention, because it's not about all that. It's about you, and your personal enjoyment.

Now, that isn't to say that creative professionals don't enjoy the work we do (I wouldn't put out as much content if I didn't enjoy holding forth on all these topics). However, a lot of people think that because we enjoy our jobs, that should be payment enough. After all, they hate their jobs, so why should we make money for doing something they would gladly do for nothing in their free time to relax?

Because, to re-iterate, you are not paid for enduring something you don't want to do. You're paid because you put in the time and effort to do your job.

The Other Reason is People Need To Be Taught To Value Art

If you go to a restaurant, you can always tell the people who have worked as wait staff in the past. They're understanding, they know how to talk to their server, and they always tip. Even if the service wasn't great, they know how hard the job is, and they understand how tough it can be to make ends meet, so they always leave a gratuity.

You can also tell the people who have not had experience working in a restaurant, or who have never had friends or family members who worked there. They tend to be the people who are demanding, pushy, and who won't leave a tip unless their server went above and beyond, acting more like a personal servant than a staff member. Because, as they rationalize, that server will make minimum wage if no one tips them enough to go over, so not tipping them isn't really hurting them.

The problem creative professionals run into is that a lot of people have worked in the service industry, or have friends who have worked in it, so they empathize with the struggle. They understand how much work goes into that job, and they value it. However, if someone views writing a book as something you do on your own time, for fun, then they aren't going to think twice about just downloading a free copy off of a pirate site. If someone thinks that drawing is something you do to unwind at the end of the day, then they don't hesitate to right-click on a digital gallery and steal an image for their own use. Because, hey, this person should be happy someone like you values their art enough to take it, and use it. You made it from passion, and that creative experience should be enough payment for you. Never mind the long hours you put in, or the fact that you own the legal copyright to that work, because it would just be selfish of you to expect to be paid in real money on top of all those feelings of accomplishment.

Of course, the truth of this situation is that when someone is a creative professional, we aren't just sitting around indulging our own fancies all the time. We are creating art specifically to enrich the lives of others, to make statements, and to provide experiences. We write books, we make films, we whisper into a microphone for a podcast, but we don't do that just to amuse ourselves. We crunch the numbers, we research the market, we hustle at conventions, we invest time, effort, and money into building the brand, and we do our best to provide something of value.

That's exhausting. But sometimes just having someone come up and say, "Hey, I really like what you're doing. It's good. Keep it up!" is the most rewarding thing that can happen. With that said, if you can afford to drop a dime into someone's Patreon jar, you should maybe do that, too. Share the links, buy the merch, leave reviews, and if you value what someone does, help give them the support to keep doing it.

Speaking of which, if you enjoyed this latest Business of Writing post from yours truly, why not head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today? For as little as $1 a month, I'll even throw in a free book or two as a holiday thank you! Lastly, to stay on top of all my releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter, too.

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