Getting my nails done, she asks.
Having my hair cut, he asks.
Standing in the park, the mothers ask.
“I don’t get your blog. Why do you write? Do you make any money?”
I am tired of the ceaseless justification I feel is expected of me when asked this question. Tired of the lies I sometimes spin to appease the appetite of the person asking. I have danced around this issue many times, in snippets in blog posts and passing conversations. But today I feel that I need to be accountable.
Writing is not something that I do. Writing is something that I am.
I want to give my words and my voice the platform they deserve to be heard. Whatever blocks I may use to build that platform, I will keep building it. Where this journey may take me, I do not know. But the exhilaration of the ride so far is something I would never trade – just for money.
Yes, I freelance some of my work on platforms that pay me to do so. I also freelance some of my work on platforms that do not pay me to do so. Each time it is my choice.
Kelly Exeter has defined the reason and the logic of ‘writing for free’ so eloquently on The Shake and Kiki and Tea. The most resounding message is that each writer has choice. With that choice, each writer is entitled to drive their career in the direction that they choose. I make the choices that I do with my eyes wide open and I am both aware of and willing to accept the consequences.
My choices however, do not place me in any position to judge the choices of others.
The debate of writers being paid for their work will never stop. Allison Tait teases out the idea so perfectly in her book Get Paid to Write: The Secrets of Freelance Writing Success. She encourages writers to value their work and themselves. “Writing for free can be valuable. But if you’re going to give away your words, make sure you choose wisely where they go.” Here we are again, back at the beginning. Choice.
For me the writing is enough. The words, the voices and the stories dance in my head all day, all night. I will always write and pursue the opportunities that allow those words and voices to be heard. Some of those opportunities will be paid, others will not.
Pip tells the beautiful story of the painter she met who sat beside the hustle and bustle of life painting his canvases. His paintings, as Pip discovered, were not for sale. They were simply there for people to enjoy. They were there for the painter to enjoy. There is a lesson in that. We may live in a society that will forever be held hostage to money and the monotony of paying our bills. Yet, jumping off the rollercoaster every now and again may prove to be more empowering than we think. So please, stop asking about the money.
Do you write for free?