Survival of the Creative

Our bills aren’t free, so why should our writing be?

Original artwork

Wri-ter / n. — an organism capable of transforming caffeine into books.

It’s a mastered skill, collecting tidbits of money from every direction to make ends meet.

In the beginning we’re proud of ourselves. How could we not be? WE DID IT! We fulfilled a dream, reached a goal. We completed our mission and we’re hooked. People are reading our words and we’re elated by the notion we’ve in someway connected with others.

Then reality sets in.

As with anything that involves money it gradually becomes a chore. It strips the very idea of freedom to create because when we put a price on it, it’s no longer free. At the same time it ensures the survival of art. It ensures survival of the creative, and we deserve compensation for our work.

We wrote this beautiful essay, poem, short story, article, blog post, clicked publish and sent it out into the world, steadily chipping away at the evil and filling the cracks with beauty.

Credit

Money now motivates us to write what we think ‘people want to read’ in order for us to profit. $50 for a 1,200 word story here, $20 for a 500 word article there. Even behind a metered paywall we still search to discover the formula for getting eyes on our work.

I’m unsure how I feel about this. When I wrote for the media it was a steady income in exchange for opinion pieces on current events. As it turned out, nothing I felt good about writing or had any significant interest in contributing to.

Now on my own, with all the topics I’ll write about, it seems writing about my misery is the money maker, but I’m not convinced that’s a negative.

It is in fact the experience of depression fueling my desire to put one word in front of the other until a complete thought reaches it’s end and is punctuated.

For me, writing is the easy part. The ideas flow and the words often come with little effort. Experiencing depression is what provides me the ability to be open, honest and raw. The words are endless, the thoughts, ideas, clanking away at my keyboard morning, noon and night.

There is no shame in sharing my feelings when it comes to a diagnosis an estimated 40 million Americans live with each year. I’m an anti-stigma. All eyes on me, please.

Selling myself, that’s where the struggle lies. It’s challenging for me because I truly thrive from isolation — but in order to thrive financially I must be social and once a writer begins to profit it’s always about not profiting enough or how to profit more.

We need to be on social media platforms. We need to market our books. Nothing sells unless we sell it. We need to share our stories. No one reads them unless we share them. It’s a constant process and a creative one at that.

I’m a human who experiences human things and it feels unethical to put a price tag on that. Being a creative should never feel like a chore or a job. Being a creative is a way of life. It’s a positive impact on the world. It’s connecting people together but nothing is ever easy. Being creative is also our source of income. It feeds our families and pays our bills.

How do I make more money? This is where it is no longer about glory and instead, all about work. It never seems to be the question of How do we live with less? But instead, How do we get more? Including those of us who claim we write because we have to. I don’t doubt this is true but I do doubt this claim comes for free.

And if you miss a day, your fans fade away because the internet is fleeting.

Follow your dreams, they say but they never mentioned anything about the ability to survive, to make it to the next day, the next idea, the next paragraph, the next voice that reaches out to me and says, I relate so much to your story.

The glory is in believing in ourselves that we can make this happen. The glory is not in the paycheck, unless of course you got a movie deal and if so, congrats! I’m jealous.

If we’re going to master the skill of collecting tidbits of money from every direction to make ends meet, we have to be creative.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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