On The Myth of Laziness
I usually look at them and ask if they think I’m lazy. I spend most of my time writing or promoting my writing or trying to find new projects so I can continue to write. And I don’t make a lot of money. Yet.
Even if I find a way to make this crazy writing career pay off to the extent I can afford to do it, it is not going to make me rich unless I accidentally write exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. J K Rowling isn’t insanely rich because she is so much more talented than the thousands of other writers producing books right now.
She is insanely rich because she wrote the right thing at the right time and because she got a whole lot of lucky breaks.
My point is not to disparage Rowling. I enjoyed the Harry Potter books and don’t blame her for the fact she tapped so perfectly into the public consciousness. Every writer wants to have that experience and few ever will.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. As a culture, we don’t value art the way we value many other things. For every wildly successful theater in the Twin Cities, there are dozens that are just scraping by.
But here’s the question – are the people who run those theaters lazy?
Maybe they’re just doing it wrong. Maybe they’re doing it right but they haven’t managed to tap into the public consciousness yet. They aren’t lazy, though. They are trying like hell.
It bothers me that we want to believe poverty is always the fault of the impoverished. It bothers me that janitors make hundreds of thousands of dollars less than executives when most of us could live our entire lives without having an executive interfere with our work but if our trash can wasn’t empty every morning, we’d be annoyed.
Does anyone think janitors are lazy? Is that why they are paid less than an executive?
Almost every artist is living job to job. When they have paying work, they are thinking about what they need to do to get the next check. The only check that is guaranteed is the one they have just received.
The puzzle for the artist is to figure out how to get people to understand the value in what they do.
I want people to understand the value that artists provide. Art takes time and turns it into happiness. Or sadness. Or Fear. Or Joy. Or anger. Or laughter. Art takes time and it makes time memorable.
When an artist asks for money, they are doing so for two reasons. The first is because they want to make a living doing something they love. The second is because their time has value.
Everyone’s time has value. Whether that person is an improvisational performer at HUGE or a visual artist or the guy who makes your coffee at Starbucks. We all try to turn our time into money.
When we choose to do that in a way that is undervalued by society, that doesn’t make any of us lazy. It simply highlights that some of us choose to do things that are harder to sell.
For the average artist to succeed, they not only need to create something, they need to sell it. Any time spent selling is time they cannot create. And most of us have to deal with people growing tired of our efforts to sell our product.
You know what? We get tired of it too! We get tired of the endless requests to support our Kickstarter or buy tickets to our show or share our latest podcast. We would rather everyone just did it.
But they don’t. That’s just reality. And it isn’t their fault. Our job as artists is to convince them our work has merit that they should support.
So we keep selling. Because we have to. Because most of us aren’t J K Rowling. And we keep hoping that someday it will get a little easier.
For some of us, it does. For most of it, it doesn’t.
But please don’t call us lazy. There is nothing lazy about waking up and asking yourself “what am I going to create today and how am I going to get people to notice?”