Love and Money

Rupert Everett’s Depiction of Wilde’s Last Years in “The Happy Prince”

I am looking forward to Rupert Everett’s new film “The Happy Prince,” which tells the story of Oscar Wilde’s last years. It has a distributor and is “coming soon” but so far I’ve only had the opportunity to see trailers and clips.

Having spent quite a few years researching that period, and the years that followed, I was especially interested to see this clip of a famous episode in the lives of Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas. After Douglas inherited his portion of the family fortune upon his father’s death, Wilde had dinner with him and asked him to set him up with a regular endowment. The conversation went badly and both Wilde and Douglas gave an earful about the other to the journalist Frank Harris. Wilde also wrote about the episode in a letter to Robert Ross who was not present. Harris wrote about the fight in his biography of Wilde. It was the one thing in Harris’s book that Douglas hated the most and he spent years trying to suppress it.  The chapter bolstered Robbie Ross’s view that Douglas was only interested in Wilde for his money. That view has been enduring, as you will recall from my review of The Grand Rapids Ballet’s “Happy Prince.” 

Obviously, as I have not seen the film, I don’t know how this scene appears in context. What I like about it, however, is how it depicts Bosie not as hopelessly selfish and callous but rather as disgusted with how Wilde is squandering his talent. This is also how I saw the episode, and so I thought I would share an excerpt on the subject from Oscar’s Ghost.

Many years later, Frank Harris would publish a biography of Wilde, with Ross’s help. It has been widely criticised for its literary style, which bolsters his own importance and invents direct quotes as a narrative device. Douglas hated Harris’s biography. He fought to keep it from being published in England, and he worked with Harris and later George Bernard Shaw as the writers tried to come up with a version Douglas would find satisfactory.

There was one incident in the Harris book that offended Bosie the most. After Queensberry’s death, Oscar invited Bosie to the Café de la Paix. Robbie had suggested to Oscar that now that Bosie had his inheritance, he should ask him to set up an annuity of £2,000 from his estate. (About £22,000 today) This would give Oscar a regular income and would make him no longer dependent on his wife’s estate if he did anything to upset the administrators of the fund.

Something went wrong, however, in the way Oscar presented the idea to Bosie. It sparked one of Bosie’s rages. What struck a nerve seems to have been a suggestion that Bosie owed him for the ruin his family had brought on him. This was probably not the first time he had heard this complaint. As Oscar recounted the argument to Robbie, Bosie ‘went into paroxysms of rage, followed by satirical laughter’ and said Oscar had no claim of any kind on him.

Harris happened to be staying in Paris along with Bosie and Oscar and he saw each of them shortly after the blow up. Harris quotes Bosie, two days latter saying to him, ‘I do not see that there is any claim at all,’ and spitting the word ‘claim’ ‘as if the very word maddened him.’ The word ‘claim’ might have come from Wilde and was at the heart of his anger.

Although Harris does not record Oscar saying anything negative about Bosie in the conversation he reportedly had with him, two pages later Harris tells Bosie that Oscar seems to blame him for egging him on in the libel trial. (Given how the Harris book was written, Wilde may have said something like this to Harris or Harris may have gotten the idea that Oscar felt that way from a conversation with Robbie or one of Oscar’s letters to Robbie…)

‘How did I know how the case would go?’ Bosie snaps. ‘Why did he take my advice, if he didn’t want to? He was surely old enough to know his own interest… he is simply disgusting now…’

In his letter to Robbie, Oscar describes Bosie as ‘revolting’ and ‘mean, and narrow, and greedy.’ He says he is ‘disgusted’ and considers Bosie’s refusal to be an ‘ugly thing’ that ‘taints life.’ He also threw in a few negative comments Bosie had reportedly said about Robbie’s attitude towards money for good measure, contrasting Robbie’s goodness with Bosie’s badness. Bosie’s memory of the argument differed from Wilde’s. He said he had just given Oscar £40 (in another source it was £80) and that he ‘whined and wheedled and wept’ to get more.

In the letter to Robbie, Oscar quotes Harris as saying ‘One should never ask for anything: it is always a mistake.’ He suggested that Oscar should have had Robbie make the suggestion. This is quite different in tone to the conversation as it appears in Harris’s biography. There is no way Harris could have appreciated all of the subtext in that quarrel between lovers. (Harris admits as much himself.) Bosie clearly was enraged by the personal associations in something Oscar said.

‘He could earn all the money he wants if he would only write; but he won’t do anything,’ Harris quotes Bosie as saying. ‘He is lazy, and getting lazier and lazier every day; and he drinks far too much. He is intolerable.’ Bosie admitted in his ‘setting the record straight’ preface to the 1930 edition of the Harris biography that he might well have called Oscar ‘an old prostitute.’

As usual, however, the mood soon passed and had no lasting effect on his relations with Oscar. If Harris had not been around to witness it, the whole thing would probably have been forgotten. The sad fact is that at this time, Oscar was sinking deeper and deeper into addiction. He drank to excess and spent every penny that fell into his hands on liquor and rent boys. His friends were at a loss on how best to help him.

…[Oscar’s] brother Willie died at age forty-six from the effects of chronic alcoholism. After Willie’s death in 1899, Robbie got Oscar to sober up for a few months. ‘Had circumstances permitted me to be with him more than I was,’ Robbie said, ‘I might have done something with him as he liked being ordered about by people whom he knew were fond of him.’

This goes a long way to explaining Bosie’s furious pronouncements that Oscar could support himself if he were not so lazy. He and Robbie had different styles, but it seems that Robbie in his gentle, thoughtful way, and Bosie in his direct and brutal way, were both ordering Oscar around out of love.

Robbie, Bosie and Harris each tried to support Wilde without giving him the means to drink himself into a stupor. Wilde griped to each of his friends about the stinginess of the others.

Yet Bosie believed Robbie did the right thing in doling out funds to Oscar. Years later, when he had little love left for Robbie, he wrote, ‘…I do not blame Ross at all for his cautiousness about the money and for his, unfortunately fruitless, efforts to make it last a little longer than it did. In this respect he certainly acted entirely in Oscar’s interests and with the best motives.’

T.H. Bell who knew Wilde in his last year found him to be someone who had ‘nothing left in him of responsibility, truthfulness or common honesty.’ Robbie complained to him of Wilde’s ingratitude. Bell was impressed by Robbie’s loyalty to him, given how he had been treated. ‘It is evident that there must have been something at one time, if there was not much of it left in his last period, that drew to the man those good friends who stood by him.’

 

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Do What You Love. The Money Won’t Follow.

There was an excellent review of the series Mozart in the Jungle in the L.A. Review of Books today. Although it is framed as a review of the series and a comparison to the book on which it is based, it is more than that a consideration of the state of arts funding in the 21st Century and that strange drive that pulls artists towards a careers that requires a vow of poverty of its practitioners and how the ethos that certain careers should be done for the love not the money can be used to exploit idealistic workers. (This is a particular pet peeve of mine as you can see by reading any of the posts tagged with “love and money.”)

It’s also very funny, because it’s built out of a hilariously unanswerable question. Why make art that no one wants to pay for?

It’s unanswerable because there is no reason; it is, literally, an irrational thing to do. And irrational people are at their funniest when they insist on continuing, and when — in order to continue — they must insist that doing so is the only reasonable thing to do. In this way, the show is a comic saga about art during our austerity, about the survival and suffering of the artistic vocation in the face of the endless and remorseless de-professionalization we are experiencing, as, year after year, it gets harder and harder to make a living doing the things you love.

Film Jobs are Jobs

I read an article this morning in the Christian Science Monitor with the title “Should Innovation be Tax Deductible.

The issue is whether Congress should amend the tax code to give companies engaging in research to pay lower taxes on the profits of such activities. Supporters of the idea believe it will increase innovation at home and keep well-paying research jobs from going overseas.

I am not going to offer an opinion on the proposed legislation itself, beyond saying that the argument presented against the idea in the article seemed to be to be less than persuasive. It consisted of the notion that corporations would abuse the benefit by re-classifying various activities in order to qualify for the incentives.

This is what corporations do. Saying that there should not be any incentives in the tax code because corporations will work around them is like saying we should not have speed limits because people will drive faster than them anyway.

But that is not what I am here to talk about. One particular paragraph caught my attention:

For example, a 2004 effort by Congress to lower tax rates for US manufacturers expanded far beyond lawmakers’ original definition of “manufacturing,” Mr. Gardner notes. “When the dust settled, the final law expanded the concept of ‘manufacturing’ to include roasting beans for coffee (an early example of the lobbying clout of Starbucks) and film and television production. When policymakers initially began discussing the manufacturing tax break, few would have imagined that the Walt Disney Company would reap more than $200 million a year in tax breaks for ‘manufacturing’ animated films,” he wrote…

What bothers me here is the mocking of the notion that television and film production deserve to be classified as “manufacturing.”

Manufacturing is making something as contrasted with agriculture (growing something) or service. Now I will be the first to admit that the Walt Disney Company is far from being a struggling entity in need of government assistance. That is not the point.

I assume that the reason Congress wanted to lower these tax rates was to keep jobs in the United States. Well, television and film employ a lot of people– real people who buy houses and cars and go shopping and raise families. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics motion pictures and broadcasting show an annual average of 20,869 employees and total annual wages of $1.55 billion.

They make a product that American consumers value so much we spend an average of five hours a day watching it.

When you think of the movie industry, you probably imagine actors and directors. But it takes a lot of people to make a movie or a television show from caterers and hair-stylists to construction workers and lighting technicians.  USA today recently cited the film industry as an area of growth for blue collar workers in an otherwise fairly stagnant economy.

Atlanta needs construction workers, lighting experts and others to work in its fast-growing film industry. Skill is required, but not necessarily film experience for the 77,000 film workers (average pay $84,000) and support personnel in 2012, who turned out movies such as The Fast and the Furious and The Hunger Games franchises, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

The good news is that film production is still less outsourced than some other industries. About 65 percent of the big, profitable “Hollywood” productions are still made here– although tax incentives from other states have taken a lot of those jobs away from California.

Mr. Gardner, quoted above, particularly mocks the idea that tax breaks were intended to benefit the making of animated films. So it might be worthwhile to know that animated film-making is starting to move overseas in a big way. According to the Hollywood Reporter:

Extremely generous subsidies in Vancouver, British Columbia enticed Pixar Animation and Sony Pictures Imageworks to open satellite locations in the Province in 2010…Sony Imageworks decided to double the size of its studio space in the city and grow its Vancouver workforce from 100 people to more than 250. In January 2014, Sony Imageworks announced layoffs at its Southern California facility and that it was shifting more positions to Vancouver. As the workforce in British Columbia grows, it shrinks in California.  In 2012, DreamWorks Animation announced plans to open a studio in Shanghai, China… Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said the size of the studio in China could eventually surpass DreamWorks’ headquarters in Glendale, California, which employs more than 2,000 people. It appears job growth is happening in the animation world, but it’s happening in places like China, not California.

Are those 2,000 jobs not American jobs? Are they less worth keeping here than jobs making mechanical devices?

The reason, I think, it is easy to mock making cartoons as an example of manufacturing (in a way that I doubt one would mock the notion of, say, software as manufacturing) is that it falls into that broad category of “the arts.”

It is the same mindset that says giving a rich person an incentive to build a sports stadium is an investment in economic growth whereas giving funds to build a fine arts theater is supposed to be philanthropy and charity. Making music, dance, theater is art not commerce. It should be done for love not money.

I don’t know whether we need to give tax incentives to large corporations to keep them from moving overseas. If we do, though, we should care about the jobs making film sets as much as we care about the jobs making automobiles. Most of us spend more time each day using the film-makers’ products than the car-makers’.

 

 

 

Ah, the “Write Great Books and Hope” Retirement Plan…

One non-fiction writer I admire (on the strength of his thought-provoking and chilling Columbine) is Dave Cullen. Columbine took a decade to research and write and the results show in the finished product.  All of the blogs and articles out there on how to make a living as a writer would say that his next move should be to “build a brand” and quickly put out a lot of similarly themed books and products. No doubt, this is smart advice. It is, of course, not what he is doing. Cullen’s follow up to Columbine is another long-term research project called Soldiers First about gays in the military. Cullen followed his subjects for a decade and a half before and after “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

Writers are paid, of course, but often months, years or decades after the labor and often at a rate that would fall criminally short of minimum wage when all the math is done.

On Goodreads you can post questions for many authors and I asked Dave Cullen how he funded his long-term research projects. (Mostly because I was looking for ideas on how to fund mine!)  A certain kind of economist might tell you that people are rational animals who do work in order to earn money and that if they are not paid enough they will not do the work. But Cullen responded that he went into debt to produce both of his works– Colubmbine and his forthcoming book.

For Columbine… The first few years, I was writing a lot for magazines, and just scraping by with freelance gigs. (This is before the web destroyed much of the journalism market, and you could still get by on freelancing. It was always tough, but possible that recently. Now, I don’t think it is.)

Over time, I went into debt, then got some advance money to help, and went back to working part-time outside writing as a consultant. Luckily, I’d worked as a computer consultant and management consultant for Arthur Andersen into my early 30s before quitting it all to go to grad school and write full time. So I was employable that way.

Then I went back more deeply into debt.

The unexpected success of the book got me out of debt, and combined with speaking gigs and other assorted bits, has kept me afloat working on this next book–along with some advance payments starting last year. I’m about to start going back into debt on this book, but hoping it will earn money after publication and I can stay solvent.

I’m now in my 50s without a retirement plan–and weak social security benefits after a decade of very low income–so that scares me. But if I can write some great books, hopefully that will take care of it.

The “write great books and hope” retirement plan would elicit a real scolding from Suze Orman. Yet there is a wisdom to it. Yes, it is hard to be constantly MacGyvering your financial life as an artist. I won’t downplay the stress of it. But every life has its stress and struggles.

Writers do not want to write in order to make a living. Rather they want to make a living in order to write. (While at the same time hoping beyond hope that writing will pay the bills.) It is not only a question of funding an IRA but of focusing and putting all one’s energy into something that gives him a goal and a sense of purpose.

Looking back on a long life would you like to be able to say “I had a well-funded retirement” or “I wrote a book that was worth reading.”

Write great books and hope…

Artists: Please Stop Apologizing for Wanting to Make a Living.

In my other life I manage a ballet dancer. So I get a lot of ballet-related posts in my media stream. Today I started to read a story called Why All Those Rules? It was written by ballet teacher Amanda Trusty trying to explain to parents why ballet and ballet instruction can seem a bit rigid compared to, say, soccer practice. She wrote:

 A lot of parents see dance as an activity like soccer that should be free through the school or a club, however the school hasn’t provided us with any space, so we have to charge tuition in order to pay our rent and offer your child a safe space to come and dance. We had to pay for good dance floors – cement is not a healthy surface for dancers. We had to pay for mirrors – yes, glass is THAT expensive. We had to pay for barres, and marley, and rights to play music – all before even asking for tuition to pay the teachers.

Let me tell you from deep down in my heart, we aren’t trying to get rich – we’re just trying to do it right.

Did you catch that? The instinctive defensiveness about making money as if making a profit beyond subsistence is somehow tainted. “I do this for love,” she says. “Not for money.”

You will never hear an automotive executive apologize for making a profit and listing all of the costs that go into what he does to prove that his profits are not excessive.

In his world making a good living only proves that he is successful. If he has success, or even when he doesn’t, he insists upon being well-compensated for his work. He certainly does not apologize for being paid.

I won’t go into why we have this mythos– that the artist should work for love not money. I’ve explored it (and griped about it) in a number of articles in the past. (Notably this one on the “tainted altruism effect.”)

What I want to say here is simply that this is a cycle that must be broken. Artists and those in caring professions– social workers, teachers, caregivers– have to stop apologizing for wanting to be paid. It does not mean you care less. It does not mean your work is less legitimate. It does not make you a “sell-out.” We’ve internalized this notion for far too long.

Perverse Incentives: Paying People More to Make Life Ugly than To Make it Beautiful

“We allow people to make huge profits doing any number of things that will hurt the poor, but we want to crucify anyone who wants to make money helping them,” Dan Pallotta told the New York Times.

Surely we value the work of those who help the poor, and yet charity, like art, falls into the category of things that we expect people to do for love rather than money.

To put that in a Pallottian soundbite: We allow people to make huge profits by making the landscape more ugly, but we are uncomfortable with paying people to create beauty.

A team of researchers at Yale University call this the “tainted altruism effect.” They found that ”

People evaluated efforts that realized both charitable and personal benefits as worse than analogous behaviors that produced no charitable benefit. This tainted-altruism effect was observed in a variety of contexts and extended to both moral evaluations of other agents and participants’ own behavioral intentions (e.g., reported willingness to hire someone or purchase a company’s products). This effect did not seem to be driven by expectations that profits would be realized at the direct cost of charitable benefits, or the explicit use of charity as a means to an end. Rather, we found that it was related to the accessibility of different counterfactuals: When someone was charitable for self-interested reasons, people considered his or her behavior in the absence of self-interest, ultimately concluding that the person did not behave as altruistically as he or she could have. However, when someone was only selfish, people did not spontaneously consider whether the person could have been more altruistic.

In other words, the researchers confirmed what Pallotta observed anecdotally. If you make a million dollars feeding the homeless people will judge you more harshly than they judge the man or woman who made a million dollars and didn’t feed the homeless. Put another way, the guy who got rich by foreclosing on people’s homes (creating the homeless) probably seems more respectable than the guy who took a large salary for running a homeless charity.

Why are people so uncomfortable about the idea of people making lots of money helping people, caring for people or creating art? It is what I would call a prostitution anxiety. Money is a depersonalizing force, as a universal medium of exchange, it replaces the need for an ongoing relationship between people who engage in commerce.

To really understand this it helps to know a bit about the history of money.  Most people have a notion that money evolved out of barter.  The idea is that the guy who owns a cow trades the milk for some eggs for the guy who has chickens. But what if the guy with chickens is lactose intolerant? How does the cow owner obtain eggs? Money was invented to solve this dilemma. (This notion of the origin of money is used in this 1947 educational film by RCA.)

Economic anthropologist David Graeber calls this “the founding myth” of economics. In an interview posted on the blog Naked Capitalism, Graber explained:

Obviously what would really happen, and this is what anthropologists observe when neighbors do engage in something like exchange with each other, if you want your neighbor’s cow, you’d say, “wow, nice cow” and he’d say “you like it? Take it!” – and now you owe him one. Quite often people don’t even engage in exchange at all – if they were real Iroquois or other Native Americans, for example, all such things would probably be allocated by women’s councils.

So the real question is not how does barter generate some sort of medium of exchange, that then becomes money, but rather, how does that broad sense of ‘I owe you one’ turn into a precise system of measurement – that is: money as a unit of account?

I owe you one. I helped you and so we are in a relationship together. You are socially obligated to return the favor in some way at some point. Money, as the author James Buchan says, is “frozen desire.” Those who accumulate it can use it for whatever they see fit. You can go into a shop, hand over some paper or coins or electronic digits, and you can walk out with as many gallons of milk and cartons of eggs as you like and you are under no obligation to the person who owned the cow, or the chickens, or the person who leases the building, or the clerk who works behind the register. Money ends the transaction and dissolves the relationship. You can go back to the store if you like, but you are not obligated to. Likewise the store clerk has no obligation to remember your birthday or acknowledge you in any way after she leaves her place of employment. Money is a depersonalizing force.

Buchan’s book, Frozen Desire, says that in ancient times there was “a contest between the moneyless and moneyed forms of social organizations…Money is normative. So pervasive is its influence on our lives that it makes less moneyed ages incomprehensible, consigning them to barbarism or folklore. Yet history is not inevitable: antiquity did not aspire to our present condition and might have generated a quite different present.”

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Buchan says, Britain for a time shifted to a non-monetary economy.  That means that in the time of Jesus and his contemporaries, the money model was not yet set in stone. We read accounts of Jesus telling his followers to take nothing with them, not to use money, and to rely on the kindness of others. This concept, in our time, has to be much more radical than it was in his. In villages like Galilee, there was probably little use for money, except when dealing with outsiders like the colonizing Romans. Amongst themselves, locals most likely still relied on systems of trust and mutual obligation.

Buchan, in his chapter which specifically addresses Jesus says it is “as if Jesus recognizes money as a competitive authority: that in embodying happiness and reward in tangible, earthly form, money is more persuasively heaven than Heaven.”

We have come so far from these times that we can barely even conceive of getting along without the tool of money. Yet we intuitively retain some sense of what money replaces– relationship. Thus we fear allowing it into certain areas. We make it illegal in most places to pay someone for sex because we fear what would happen if sexuality were completely divorced from emotional attachment. Likewise, we get uncomfortable about people taking money in order to do compassionate work because we fear what would happen if people only acted compassionately if they were paid to do so. We believe real artists create for love and dismiss artistic projects that have commercial success as selling out because we want art to be a relationship between the artist and other souls.

Thus begins a strange and vicious cycle. It is precisely because we value the human element so much that we fear contamination of them by money. We are afraid that money will make compassion, inspiration, and care disappear. The sad consequence is that we, in effect, starve them out.

We use money to attract “the best and brightest” to banking, but those who would like to make a living in the non-profit sector or the arts must commit to a kind of vow of poverty. In turn, we discourage humanities education because its practitioners do not make any money. (The link above is to a quite interesting article on misconceptions about liberal arts education, especially English literature as exhibited in the movie Dead Poet’s Society.) We argue for the relevance of music education by saying it improves performance in math rather than by saying children should study music because we value music.

What the market does not value, we do not value– except that, in our heart of hearts, we value it quite a lot. We value music, literature, painting and charitable work so much that we are afraid to contaminate it with the one thing that would ensure its thriving.

It seems unlikely that we are going to go back to a non-monetary social structure any time soon.Therefore, if we want charity and arts to survive we need to find a way to reset our priorities.

People tend to think of self-interest and other-interest as opposite poles. You can do something for the love or for the money but not both. This is obviously not true, you can love caring for the elderly or writing novels and be financially rewarded for it.

Is there a way to reverse people’s thinking on this? The authors of the Yale study offered one glimpse of hope. It comes down to how information is presented. Here is how James Choi summed up the researchers’ findings on his blog:

Their experiment on Gap (RED) presented four conditions: in the control condition, participants were simply given information about the Gap. In the altruism condition, participants read about the Gap and the (RED) campaign, through which 50 percent of profits were donated to charity. In the tainted-altruism condition, participants read about the Gap (RED) campaign, its donations, and the fact that the other 50 percent of sales profited the company. Finally, in what they called the counterfactual condition, after reading that Gap (RED) raised money for charity and earned a profit, participants were reminded that the Gap did not have to donate to charity… whereas people would have typically judged charity paired with self-interest more negatively than no charity at all, by mentioning that Gap could have simply kept all the money, this perspective disappeared.

Dan Pallotta could have devoted himself to earning money by not helping people, would that be better for society? Our artists could devote themselves to earning money by not making art. Does that make our world a better place?

I’m Not Doing it To Make Money

Yesterday I came across a post by writer Anabel Smith called On (Not) Making a Living as a Writer.  As not making a living as a writer is a major theme of my blog, I passed it along in my Twitter feed.  The article focuses on Smith’s struggles to define success in a field that offers little recognition and less pay.   There is one part of the article that was still on my mind today.

Smith writes, “I wanted my book to sell more, because I wanted it to reach more readers. And though I don’t expect writing to make me rich, I would like to earn more than $6.20 an hour, mostly because, in the absence of a ‘minimum wage’ for my work, I have to look elsewhere for income.”

What struck me about this is the way the writer feels compelled to explain that she doesn’t write for the money.  I have heard many writers and artists make similar statements and I have made them myself.  Why do we find ourselves compelled to say that we’re not motivated by money?  Plumbers don’t seem to have this compulsion. We don’t ask policemen to proclaim that they work for the love of it, not the money.  It is certainly not something you hear bankers saying.

In his book Life: The Movie, Neal Gabler wrote:  “…art was directed at a person; entertainment was directed at the largest possible number of people. It followed as a kind of corollary that if artists seemed to create their work assuming that different spectators would have different experiences of it, entertainers created theirs by deploying familiar words, images, symbols, techniques or stories in an attempt to manipulate a spectator not only into having a particular experience but in ensuring that every member of the audience would have the same experience. That is why art is thought of as inventional and entertainment as conventional or formulaic; entertainment is constantly searching for a combination of elements that has predictably aroused a given response in the past on the assumption that the same combination will more than likely arouse the same response again.”

There seems to be a sense in the arts that anything that is done for money is cheap, crass, commercial and of little quality.  Therefore, wanting to be paid indicates you are not a serious artist.  It is a strange definition of professional. The more dedicated you are to your craft, the less you are supposed to expect a salary. If you create with an expectation of consumer success you are creating “entertainment” not “art.”

I am not sure where this prejudice comes from or how it is perpetuated.  As I wrote in my post Do it in the Name of Love last week, William Pannapacker writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education reflected on the idea of working “for love.”  The imperative to work “for love” Pannapacker wrote “supports the transfer of resources from one group to another, typically from women to men, from minority to majority. There’s no doubt about it: ‘Love’ is ideological, and it should not be left unquestioned when it is used in relation to work.”

Of course, as with all ideologies, it is not simple enough to say that those in power impose it on the powerless.  The powerless do a good job policing themselves.  (See Vaclav Havel’s The Power of The Powerless.)  In the case of writing for love, artists who are not making a living perpetuate the myth because we need to hold onto the idea that there is meaning in what we do. If we can’t measure it using the tools most people use to measure success– making lots of money– then it helps to use the very fact of not making money as a sign that we are producing something of quality.

Given the history of payment of artists in the world, I’m not terribly optimistic that our status is going to dramatically change. On the other hand, we should probably no apologize for wanting to be paid.

Related articles:

Harvard Business Review: Choosing Between Making Money and Doing What You Love

The Paint Shop: Should an Artist Charge More than a Plumber

Heliumm: Working Charitable Events Without Becoming a Charity Case

Chronicle of Higher Education: On Graduate School and “Love”

Maria Brophy: Are You Selling or Making a Contribution

A Few From my archives:

Do It In the Name of Love

But Sports Are Big Money

How Writing is Like Working at McDonald’s

You Weren’t Expecting to Be Paid, Were You?

Money’s Invisible Influence: The Cases of Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas

Why Writers Choose to “Go Indie”

And all the articles in my “failure series.”