You can lie to us, but don’t lie to yourself.
I was on a forum at a commercial photography site the other day. This is a site where you sell art, mostly paintings, and photography. And unlike my stock agencies, there you sell for pretty big bucks. It’s not a place to post snapshots of your kids. But they have a critique forum, and someone posted a picture of just that. It was a beautiful landscape, I don’t remember where, but I would love to shoot it.
Just not quite how they did.
The image’s focus was obviously the shooter’s daughter, dead center, with the landscape behind and around her. Most of the image, including the kid, was out of focus. The horizon was crooked. The girl and most of the foreground were underexposed, and the sky was almost blown out.
The forum wasn’t kind.
The responses ranged from somewhat constructive but mostly derisive criticism to outright ridicule. Before you get shocked, remember, this wasn’t some hobbyist site. It’s not Flickr; it’s a site where professional artists attempt to sell their work for money. Sometimes a lot of money.
First, the photographer tried to defend the work. “I was trying to express…,” “I intended to show…,” as hundreds of virtual heads shook around the world. You see, we’ve heard it before. People trying to couch their lack of experience in artsy terms. It doesn’t work.
Finally, she got defensive and fell back on, “Well, I’m not doing this for the money.”
Bullshit. You loaded it onto a site whose only purpose is to sell art. You had to put a price on it even to complete the process.
You can lie to us, but don’t lie to yourself.
This wasn’t an isolated experience. I’ve seen it and read about it many times over the years. In photography and writing. People who aren’t able to make money at their craft claiming they aren’t doing it for the money. As if that raises them above the great unwashed masses begging for coin.
As if that excuses their incompetence.
If you aren’t doing photography for money, there are plenty of places to showcase your work that aren’t necessarily commercial. And if you aren’t writing for money there are plenty of those too.
And many of them do both. 500px and Flickr come to mind in photography. There is some beautiful work in both places that aren’t for sale. People who are just doing art for art’s sake. I don’t understand them, but I respect them.
I remember telling my wife one time about rule #1. We were someplace, and someone offered her money. I don’t know if it was a repayment of some type or just an act of kindness. She politely but adamantly turned them down. Rule #1 is, if someone is trying to give you money, take it. There are other ways to be kind.
Art and creativity fall squarely under rule #1. It’s not noble to turn down money for your work.
If someone is offering you money, take it. Always. If you don’t need the money, give it to someone else. Pass it on. Pay it forward, as people like to say, whatever the fuck that means.
But take the money.
If you can. If no one is offering you any money for your work, don’t pretend it’s okay. Don’t try to convince us you aren’t doing it for the money. Maybe you didn’t start out doing it for money. But this is the Internet age. Information is bombarding us all day, every day. And much of that information begins with, “How to Make Money…” doing something you love to do.
Hmmm. I can do what I love and make money at it? Who would turn that down?
I can tell you who would turn that down. People that aren’t being offered any money. It’s a way to hang on to their self-respect.
But there’s another way. A harder way. A long way.
In the world of video gaming, there are forums just like everywhere else. And without fail, on a forum discussing a particular game, some naive newbie will stumble in and ask how to do something or why they can’t get past something. And the answer is always the same.
Those video gamers talk funny, but you get the point.
If you are doing something that has commercial value, you should get paid for it. There is no nobility in not making money that people are willing to pay for. And that mindset only seems to exist in the art and creativity world.
I walked into Goodyear the other day. I had a complaint. I told the guy the set of radials he sold me last week was crap. Two of them had already gone flat, and the tread was completely gone from a third. I demanded my money back.
He just smiled and shrugged and said, “That’s okay. I’m not doing it for the money.”
Did that happen? Then why does it occur in photography and writing forums all day every day?
Because it’s easier to make excuses than to get better. A lot easier. Getting better requires work. It requires research. It requires time and effort. Some people just don’t want to put in the effort.
To a certain extent, it’s not their fault. After all, they are besieged by emails and websites claiming how easy it is to make money. Sell the photos on your hard drive for cash! How to make $5,000 a day writing about what you know! How to get rich in the exciting world of alpaca farming!
Okay, maybe not that last one.
But here’s the thing. You can’t blame it on the marketers sending out those emails. You know why? Because they’re doing it for the money. Each and every one of them is trying to sell you something. And you know that, but you fall for it anyway.
Because it sounds simple. I can make money without doing any work.
No. You can’t. If you want to make money at anything, you have to put in the work. You have to do your time.
Don’t tell me you aren’t doing it for the money. You just aren’t good enough.