Writing for Love / Writing for Pay – the Ethics of Work

Well, here we are in another ‘Now’ another ‘Today’.  Earning money is helpful for many people.  People like it more whenever the work is found meaningful and enjoyable.  There are people who live ‘the ideal’ of being well paid for meaningful work in an area of natural talent, enjoyment and expertise with dedication and joy.

Others are forced or choose some form of compromise.  Still others feel like ‘they lost’ and try to appreciate it if they get to survive despite losing the battle.

There are people who experience work for pay at various points along the spectrum of ideal and in line with their personal values to greed/need money motivated and driven and the misery associated with the work is actually largely a side effect of really doing it despite disliking it because of needing or wanting the pay.

The way that I really feel about the stories and books etc. that I write or ghostwrite.  The truth is that I feel more than one way about it depending on the project.  I would strongly prefer to have been paid really well for the pieces that I have written from love of story and love of the craft and hoping that both I and readers would be very pleased with it.  That hasn’t happened.   I have been published a little bit, and been paid about the amount of many a teen’s allowance for a couple of weeks or a month so far for works that I have written purely out of love of story and wish to make readers and myself happy.  More than one was developed as a story to tell to my kid.

Some people have paid me to write.  I am very grateful to them for helping me actually get paid to write and to get some more professional experience.  Some of the projects are closer to all that I truly love than others – including the Be Diversity Competent! and Thinking Your Way to Riches – Family Style [which began as 12 Universal Laws], the book summaries on philosophical works and some of the others.  The thing with the book summaries is that I would not have done nearly as many if I had not been trying to earn a living doing them.  It got a little ‘crazy’ because I was trying to earn a living: I actually managed to for about a year by writing the book summaries – maybe even 1.5 years, but in the end the editors thought I was a nut case – probably because I had had too little social contact, 7 cups of coffee and had written 80,000 words in a month – which is way too much.  3,000 words per day, as a professional is all I can do.  So, I spent a year angry with my low productivity until the day I thought it through and realized that my little from home book summary work was more reading and writing than my full time undergraduate study schedule, which really helped me to get perspective.  I learned a ton and love that I was able to earn a very humble living but almost an actual living and got to ghostwrite about philosophy – because I studied it so much I had intended to make a career with/in philosophy.  That was going to be my day job with a bit of novel writing on the side and a little book writing because as a professor one is supposed to write some books.  OK, so at this point I am still only able to do part of what is required…but the latest efforts to actually market and get publishers for a general book of philosophy for readers and another book which is more academic and for the tradition…are part of that same endeavor.

OK, luckily, some people have paid me to ghostwrite fiction for them – last year I was paid to ghostwrite most of a novel and at least one short fiction story.  Again, I am grateful for the work and the experience.

None of that was ‘my ideal’ however.  ‘My ideal’ is that as well as having a good and real personal life and now and then writing something based on a publisher or client request – for both love and pay, [instead of for one or the other] that I will start earning good money from the stuff I write ‘as art’.  Of course, I am still open to earning money in some other ways – I even have some paintings I am willing to sell ‘as an artist’.

Like so many of you, I have also earned money by working jobs that I hated and by spending extra time in a bad relationship [or a relationship that was challenging at the time] because I needed the money.  That is pretty much the dark side of it.  Luckily, most of the relationships I was in where money was important – were not only because of the money.

Many of you have also met both kinds of people: those who really do only work for pay because they need the money and others who are not even just lying to themselves about that, but would really do a lot of what they do – as long as they were provided for, even if it did not pay off the same way.

With me, I have honestly figured out that I do want to share many good results of using my skills and talents with the world, and I would really like to be above rather than below the economic level of my parents when they were doing their best financially – and still like my life…or actually like my life more with more money instead of having to do stuff I hate so much that the more money doesn’t even make me happier over all.  At the same time, I will help others either way, but I really do work quite differently if I really don’t need the money than I do when I really do.

That is probably commonplace and normal.

Now you all know that.

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