Work hard, they said; discipline and dedication will pay off, they said. They lie.
(disclaimer: please try to have a sense of humor about this flaming pile of bitter reprimands against our current modes of human operation)
The American Dream. We are told all of our lives that there is nothing that can get in our way if we work hard enough at it. You can go from rags to riches if you have a single minded purpose, stay focused and put the time and elbow grease in. Never give up, everybody could be a winner!
What a sopping wet fuck of bullshit. What they forget to tell you is that this only works if you are a pandering opportunist with no other goal than material success. If you happen to imbue your work with something less marketable, something personal and meaningful, you stand a fools chance at hitting the dream jackpot.
And I am not just talking about getting rich and famous, but just, merely making a minor living of it. Of all the creative people I know, people who work hard and pour themselves into their efforts, very few of them ever see even the bottom end of the American Dream. However I have seen those who were willing to do whatever it took, despite a lack of passion or conviction, enjoy some success once they decided to put their own tastes aside and just milk the most profitable audiences by playing down to them.
I would be lying if I said I hadn’t tried doing that myself. I have failed just as surely in those attempts as when my hard work was able to maintain my own ideas and voice without catering to any external restrictions or suggestions. I am confident I do not completely suck as a writer, but it may be the case that I am a hopelessly shitty panderer. So where does this leave me and others like me?
On average I write about 1,100 (often more, often many more) words a day, as well as spending time doing research and maintaining my platforms, doing promotion and outreach and making supporting media like graphics, music and videos.
When I post my content to social media, it helps them to sell ad space, and they make money. When I use a platform like the one this website is on, they also display ads and profit. When my work is republished at other websites that sells ads, I contribute to their profit model. And yet in the four months in which I have maintained this most current site, and not only written extensively, but worked my ass off on a number of other related tasks – I have made $43. I am talking about 40 hours a week or more, and although I have helped others make money by providing them my content for free, I only made less than a full shift at minimum wage. And that money came from two donors who read my article about Ritual Generosity Magic and donated $3 & $40, of which I am immensely honored by and grateful.
During this time I published a few hundred pieces, about a quarter of them freshly written and not just transferred from some other domain I could no longer afford to lose money on. About 6,500 people have read 11,000 of these, which isn’t really all that great, but also isn’t so terrible considering that I have no support besides my own efforts and do this while working a few part-time jobs.
An equal amount of labor, or even less, would be a decent salary at some mainstream populist publication. But obviously those people are never going to have me. Meanwhile other people do make money from my labor and my audience gets it for free, and even at that are often prone to needling me with the compulsive combativeness which is the centerpiece of internet culture. In fact, both the people who use my content and those who consume it, both freely, often have a sense of entitlement or some expectation that I should be gracefully flexible and grateful for their consumption and/or usage of my unrewarded efforts. As if!
Work hard and you will just spin your wheels, unless you are willing to leap into the sacrosanct circle of profit pandering. And even then, some landlord will probably make more money than you from your efforts. Work hard and you can gain favored slave status with all of its privileges, meanwhile the platform/plant/plantation owners will continue to grow the wealth disparity between you and themselves.
Don’t believe in yourself. Believe in whatever the demographic segment with the highest spending margin believe in. That is, unless your goal is to become an embittered Promethean who embraces poverty and obscurity, in which case – maybe we should work together. Or give me $7, fucker.