I’ve spent most of my life working – and often making a living – in one or another of the arts. If I were to choose a single thing that most makes me want to tear out my hair, it would be the unbelievable ability of artists to denigrate and belittle the worth of their own work. I’m including writers in this.
Now, I’m not talking about saying, “Oh, pshaw, it’s nothing!” when someone tells you you’ve done well. I’m talking about the inability and unwillingness to see that what you’re doing is work, and is worth being paid for. It’s bad enough that artists are very often expected to give work away, or to sell it for materials costs, by people who wouldn’t dream working for minimum wage. What’s worse is that the artists themselves find this attitude inoffensive.
I don’t have a problem with asking for money for my work. I submit only to paying markets. (By the way, I consider “paying market” redundant and “non-paying market” an oxymoron.) One reason is that in Ontario I can apply for grants to support my work, but only if I’m a professional. The Ontario Arts Council defines a professional as someone who expects to be, and is, paid for her work. Even without that reason, I have two more.
One is that I object to the attitude of many (though not all) non-paying markets, which is, “We’ll get to your story when we get to it, because we’re all volunteer, and in the meantime you aren’t allowed to send it to anyone else, and we’ll give you a generic rejection in our own sweet time”. True, not all of them are like this, but there are enough. If you’re going to treat me like that, I want at least the possibility of pay at the end of it.
But the most important reason is – it’s work. I deserve to be paid, and I don’t mean paid by a link to my website or the editor’s undying love. (For the right editor, I’d reconsider that last.)
Every week, I do three things to promote my writing. I look for new markets, I submit to markets which have already seen my work, and I look for new venues for my writing.
In practical terms, this means checking Duotrope, Hope Clark’s “Funds for Writers”, Ralan.com, WritingWorld and several other sites or newsletters. It means going back over my spreadsheet to see who’s rejected a piece of mine lately, and checking what I’ve written to see if there’s something else that might work there. It means trying to come up with nonfiction article ideas to pitch to magazines.
It means brainstorming to see if I can find people who need some of my other services, like editing or proofreading or ghostwriting. Lately I’ve signed up on Elance, and I’ll let you know how that goes.
Today I’ve made a list of nonfiction books I’ve always meant to write; I’ve set myself a deadline to finish one of them and a task to do this week towards another. I’ve also thought of a brand-new market for something I did years ago. I’ll be checking that out, you can be sure!
It’s slow. It’s work. But it’s what it takes if I’m going to get paid for writing. And, believe me, if I can do it, you can do it.