What follows verbatim is an e-mail posted to craigslist’s “writing gigs” subscription list back on 5 June 2006. Written in response to several writers who had objected to the number of solicitations for writers to write for free (receiving, instead of payment, the glow that comes from having your work published or produced by organizations that advertise via craigslist), it sadly demonstrates how writers in particular, and artists as a whole, are perceived by many of the individuals who employ us.
I am getting a bit fed up with all these belly-aching writers. Of course writing is not profitable! It’s an art! Can you imagine if all the painters and collage-makers complained as much as you do about not being rich? …Listen “writers”: you do it cause you love it. If you are looking to pay your rent then be a plumber. None of your favorite writers made a living doing what the world remembers them for, instead they were doctors (chekhov), or postal workers (bukowski), or installing air conditioners (vonnegut) …writers who complain about not getting paid enough are like firemen who don’t feel like people refer to them enough as heroes– which is to say they are doing it for the wrong reasons. just because you write does not entitle you to literary attention– it doesn’t mean you are talented. i’m beginning to think it doesn’t even mean you like writing.
so please, paying gigs and non-paying gigs– keep ’em coming– but can we try to keep the self-righteous whining to a minimum??
So the toils of plumbing, doctoring, postal work, and installing air conditioners are worthy of payment — but not writing? And note how diabolically it’s suggested that if you expect to be paid for your artwork, you’re “doing it for the wrong reasons.” Unfortunate, however, are the examples cited, as Chekhov, Bukowski, and Vonnegut all went on to enjoy lucrative writing careers.
They didn’t achieve that status by accepting the wrongheaded notion that they should write for free.