Eyes open

Writers, and artists in general, have a reputation for being unworldly and incompetent in money matters and the practical bits of life. It’s an expectation that is born when we’re children, with “That’s a nice hobby, but you’ll need something to fall back on” and nurtured with images of starving artists in garrets and the idea that art isn’t real work.

The fact is, there are many money-savvy artists, and many financially stupid business people. They don’t fit the expectation, so we ignore them. The business people are excused as “not suited to run a business” or maybe with “the economy was bad” – almost anything to avoid the truth of the matter. Successful artists are brushed aside with “He was lucky” or “Well, she hit the trend”.

Worst of all is the fact that we ourselves buy this crap wholesale and unthinkingly. I tell writers and artists of all stripes that they need to insist on being paid, and paid what the work is worth.

“That’s fine for you,” I was told a few times when I was a working potter, “you can get your price. I couldn’t do that.” They were referring to the fact that I’d built a reputation for my work and a presence in the craft show circuit, and that some of my stuff was in great demand. Of course I could get my price – I was The Button Lady (or the Loon Whistle Lady, or the Fish Plate Lady). But that wasn’t luck. It was work, and planning, and being a warrior.

The warrior has to know what’s going on around her. Instead of flailing around and hoping for the best, she learns her tools and hones her skills and looks for places to apply them. Money is scary for artists, and it’s also scary for the warrior.

Look, nobody ever said the warrior isn’t scared. What the warrior does is face the fear, look it in the eyes and say, “How do I deal with this?” Then she figures out what she can do, and she does it. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn’t. But here’s the thing – if it fails, it’s not because she didn’t try. Whether it’s a rampaging horde of Huns or a rampaging horde of bills, the warrior faces it, because not facing it simply allows her to be run over.

If I have to deal with a rewrite, I go in like I know what I’m doing. I pay attention to what’s on the page and figure out the best way to deal with it. If I have to deal with a banker, same thing. I know what I want to accomplish, what resources I have, what I can offer and where I can – or should – give a bit of ground to gain something. Maybe I need a bit more inner armour to deal with a banker than with a rewrite. Maybe my fangs are longer, and I show them more readily. But the work is the same.

Face what you fear – don’t let it run you over. Money is just another thing, a way of trading writing for groceries. You can handle it.

This entry was posted in Doing the Work, Fumbling towards competence, Marketing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Eyes open

  1. Melodie says:

    Very well said! As someone who traded writing for groceries for many years, I totally agree.

  2. Diane says:

    Excellent advice!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi! just checking out your blog from the campaign. Great thoughts on authors. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many that fit the stereotype. Let’s blow it away.

  4. Betsy Love says:

    That’s awesome that you went from micro to macro! I did the same thing writing short stories and personal narratives. It wasn’t until I attempted a novel that I realized that I AM A WRITER and now I’m published which is super cool, too!
    Good luck with your journey.
    I’m following you from the Campaign.

  5. ecreith says:

    Thank you so much for following. I have a dial-up connection, so everything is really s-l-o-o-o-w for me, but I try to follow – reading if not commenting.

  6. ecreith says:

    Nice to know I’m not the only one going form micro to macro. I sometimes feel like the only flash-fiction writer-turned-novelist I know!

  7. jayang says:

    Really great post. I just took a class writing flash fiction last year, and it was quite a change! (Hi from the campaign)

  8. Thank you! I’ve been talking about artists and money for nearly twenty years, and it seems so hard to make a dent in the “it doesn’t pay” mentality!

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