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Monday, February 3, 2014

No More Starving Artists

The whole idea of Starving Artists comes up frequently in my circle of friends, probably because we're all artistic in some way. It's natural for people to talk about salaries, or at least dream salaries. We've all heard of the Kindle Millionaires. And no author I know has ever dodged the inevitable, "So... how much do you make doing this?"

Talk about awkward questions.

I mean, if we're talking about hourly salaries I'm earning ... maybe $0.000000001 per hour. Maybe. Even a short story takes a day to write. Editing, formatting for publication, cover art... all that time adds up. A good artist makes their work seem effortless. You should walk away remembering the polished, finished, perfected Whole and never think about the hours spent chiseling, polishing, prepping, and perfecting that piece.

Book, statue, painting, music... it doesn't matter what the art is, the person appreciating the art rarely sees the hard work that goes into the beautiful thing that is created.

Sadly, that means most artists are woefully underpaid. For a while it was even a fad, some masochistic badge of the True Arteest. As if malnourishment and freezing to death are good for creative pursuits. (Hint: they aren't.)

Artists aren't alone in this. There are plenty of people out there who work far more than the standard forty hour work week who can't make ends meet. Minimum wage stopped being a living wage decades ago. I'm all in favor of raising the minimum wage so that someone who works a full-time job can have a place in live in a safe neighborhood, running water, electricity, food on the table, basic phone and internet (which you really can't function without in America any more), and enough left over to save for luxuries like family vacations, early retirement, tricked out cars, or whatever.

And I understand that not everyone will ever value art the same. What I find beautiful and worthy of praise is not a universal beauty or love. Art has to speak to us on a personal level. The authors and artists and musicians I support by buying their work are the ones I love because their hard work works magic in my life.

There are a lot of artistic consumers out there. That's okay. We can all support different forms of art.

But we need to support it.

We need to support artists. We need to pay them so they can create. We need to support dreamers, innovators, inventors, scientists. We need to make sure the Starving Artist is a thing of the past, and that starts today. Don't illegally download art. Don't steal books, or music, or paintings. Don't begrudge an author a few dollars for a book. Don't ask for free anything when you can afford to pay (... if you can't afford it, ask. Artists can be cool like that, but don't expect much.) Leave reviews. Tell your friends. Share what you love.

Please, pretty please. Support the artists you love.


  1. Exactly! My favorite is someone saying that 99cents isn't much, so an author should just give the 99cent book to them. You know, since the author is already giving it away. If it's such a giveaway at 99cents, then why not just go ahead and pay it?

  2. Those who work or even dabble in an artistic field know how much work is not seen by the average consumer. However, people are notorious for not wanting to know how much effort people put into their livelihoods.

    It's like complaining about athletes being paid millions of dollars for a few months work. The athletes don't take the rest of the year off, they are out there practicing and working to improve themselves but the average consumer doesn't want to hear about it.

    Just as the average consumer thinks that if something is already priced low, especially in today's market of high prices, that it's almost like the item is being given away so it should just be given away. We are a species that hates knowing the truth.

    1. We've devalued art and innovation as corporations have gone giant. Society doesn't like anyone who steps outside the status quo. Which makes it that much more important for artists and inventors and dreamers to step outside the Norm and do new things. Dreamers and artists are part of a thriving culture. We need them.