Saturday, October 12, 2013

Are You Better Than a Hobbyist?

Creative people, especially writers, are a funny breed. We are the only profession I know of who work for free. No coal miner, nurse, shipyard worker, accountant, or any other person with bills to pay works for free. But, that is what writers are often being forced to do. And the consequences for creativity and democracy are dire.
Jonathan Tasini "Other professionals don't work for free. So why are writers expected to?"
The difference between "creative people" and coal miners, nurses, shipyard workers and accountants is not entirely that these groups have engaged in "collective organisation." A large part of it is that I've never heard of anyone who mines coal or works in a shipyard as a hobby. Writers, artists, photographers and other people in creative fields are finding, more and more, that they have more competition than just one another. They also have legions of amateur creators who don't rely on their craft in order to put food on the table, but only to keep themselves entertained.

The Internet has made sharing information and moving it around the world a simple matter. As a result, the amount of material out there that's "good enough" has risen exponentially. And a lot of it is available at little or no cost. Yes, this makes being a professional creator more difficult than it used to be. But it's the nature of the business. It's hard to command high prices for work that someone else is capable of literally giving away. Eventually, the ranks of creative professionals are going to be whittled down to those people who consistently produce such high quality work that no hobbyist, no matter how dedicated, can reproduce; simply by virtue of the fact that their day jobs preclude them from putting in the time needed to bring their skills to that level. Getting to that point, however, is likely to be painful. Unionization may arrest the slide, but it's unlikely to reverse it, because "good enough" isn't going to go away.

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