The volcano in this metaphor is capitalism, and there's no safety net to stop us from being burned up like an evil ring at the end of a trilogy if we miss a payment.
|Capital has but one master, and it answers to no other!|
And while there are a lot of folks out there who are willing to give advice, I want to take this week to ask you to please, pretty please, stop suggesting that we pick up "side" jobs or "real" jobs until we make it. Because you're not helping, and if possible you're making things worse.
Before I get into the nitty gritty details of that, though, remember to subscribe to my weekly newsletter if you want to stay on top of all my content. Also, if you want to help me stay on top of my own bills consider becoming a Patreon patron!
A Side Job? Oh If Only I'd Thought of That...
If you have a friend, family member, or even just a close acquaintance that's a creative professional, chances are good you've let fly with this sentiment at some point. You've probably wondered why the simple solution of just picking up a few shifts at a local grocery store or gas station until they break big hasn't occurred to them. After all, it seems so easy. The author sacrifices a bit of time, they get an extra few hundred bucks a month, and they're not as worried about the performance of their work.
A win all around, right?
|Just don't be poor? Shit, why didn't I think of that!|
There's a lot of reasons why you're probably getting scornful looks from your creative friends if you've made this suggestion to them, either in-person or in text. So I want to take a moment to break down both why it's insulting, and the underlying message that it conveys to them since it's something the person making the suggestion rarely thinks about again, but which will stick with the creator for months to years afterward.
First and foremost, let's talk about the tone of the suggestion. It's often presented as a simple solution to one's problem, as if somehow the creator in question doesn't know what wage labor is, and hasn't even considered it as an option. Secondly, the suggestion is usually presented as something that's easily achievable, which it often isn't. Even if there are businesses hiring in someone's area (far from a guarantee), there may not be any that are willing to offer the schedule a creator needs, to be understanding with their requirements (you can't go to shows and conventions if your job won't give you weekends off, for example), or which will compensate them fairly for their efforts.
Thirdly, and this is the category I often find myself in, a creator only has so much time and energy in a given day. If they are suddenly using that time and energy to perform labor for someone else (and especially if it's labor they hate, find difficult, or which is extremely draining for them), they aren't going to be able to make art at the same rate they were before. In some cases it's possible that this "side" job siphons out all their energy entirely, making it impossible for them to keep making their art at all.
As the song says, being a rock star is a fun job, but it's still a job. And when someone is already giving their all to push a rock up a hill, you showing up and suggesting they put on this pair of ankle weights as if that will somehow make things easier is not helping.
There's Also The Underlying Message We're Hearing
In the interest of absolute clarity, I'm not talking about when a friend offers a writer a job as a stringer for a news site they have connections at, or brings them on as a short-term editor so they can get a fast paycheck to cover their bills. I'm talking expressly about when someone suggests you simply go out and get a standard, minimum wage, part-time gig that has nothing to do with your creative field, but which is meant to supplement and support your creative efforts. Because a different message is being sent in these two situations that people who think they're being helpful might not realize.
If someone offers you a job using your craft, what they're saying is, "I value your talent as a professional, and I trust you to get this job done for me."
If someone just suggests you go pick up a few shifts as a clerk, or find a part-time security officer gig, though? The message there (whether you intend it or not) is, "Well, clearly your art isn't worth anything on its own, so go get a real, grown-up job if you insist on following this dream."
|As we all know, subtext is often present whether we want it there or not.|
If you think the artist you're about to talk to creates good art, and that they should have the time and resources to create more of it, they don't need you telling them to spend their energy on other things. What they need is you to hold out your hand, and help them make those ends meet.
Because talent is meaningless when it comes to the success of art. We rise and fall, live and die, by whether we have an audience that supports us. Period, end of story.
Again, if you have money, you can support your creative friends directly. Buy their art, become patrons, and make sure your cash goes directly toward helping them. If you don't have money to give, though? Boost their signal using your voice. Share their art on your social media pages, leave good comments, and tell your friends and family members about them. Help them reach a larger audience so that they can get the eyeballs (and patrons) they need.
That might not feel like a lot, but I'll give you a concrete example of how this could snowball.
|Seriously, go check this out!|
About a week ago I released the short story Devil's Night over on my Vocal page; a fun little fantasy tale about devil-worshiping fascists getting punched right in the face in the low-town district. It took me plenty of time to put together, but at time of writing it's gotten maybe 50 reads or so... which amounts to about 30 cents in my pocket.
On average, roughly 100-500 people read my entries on this blog. If 100 people out there read this short story, it would probably put another 50 to 60 cents in my bank account. But what if 100 people all went and shared it on their social media pages? Sure a lot of those shares might go unremarked, but with that many shares chances are good it would catch on somewhere, and reach a far wider audience. It's possible that it could spread, reaching hundreds (if not thousands) more eyes than I could ever reach on my own. For every one thousand people who read said story, I'd earn $6... and there are millions of potential eyes on those platforms.
Will all the people who read this article click through to share that tale? Probably not. But that one, concrete action taken by even a moderately-sized group of readers could have rather dramatic consequences for me as a creator. And it would be far more helpful than any advice that I just pull myself up by my bootstraps until something eventually got popular enough to pay me what I'm worth.
Be the change you want to see in the careers of the creators you like. It makes a far bigger difference than you know.
Like, Follow, and Stay Tuned!
That's all for this week's Business of Writing!
If you'd like to see more of my work, take a look at my Vocal archive, or at My Amazon Author Page where you can find books like my noir thriller Marked Territory, its sequel Painted Cats, my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife as well as my recent collection The Rejects!