9
April

Hard Work, Money and the Relationship between the Two

12 Comments

If there’s one thing that pisses me off, it’s the idea that people who are poor aren’t hard workers. Worse, I get steamed when people who are wealthy proudly thump their chests and state their wealth is due to hard work.

Um, no. I mean, it is, in part. I do believe that plenty of folks who make a lot of money work “hard” (by which I assume we all agree means “putting in a ton of hours and really sweating over the task at hand.”) But that’s not the point.

I’m in a kind of unique posi­tion here in that less than a year ago, I earned a 6-figure salary in a secure gov­ern­ment job. I am now a full-time artist (and part time mil­i­tary reservist) with an income hov­ering just above the poverty line.

And here’s the thing: I work … maybe 3–4 times as “hard” as I did when I was wealthy.

The issue isn’t hard work. The issue is mon­e­ti­za­tion of that work. I won’t even make the moral judg­ment of society valuing or not valuing the things that I do. I believe that society feels that mil­i­tary ser­vice (par­tic­u­larly domestic first respon­ders like the Coast Guard) are incred­ibly valu­able. I also believe that society feels that the arts are valu­able (and a few artists are richly rewarded).

Why some work is mon­e­tized well and why some isn’t is an *enor­mously* com­pli­cated ques­tion, and is some­thing very smart people could take years to doc­u­ment, and then you know other smart people would come along and debunk the old the­o­ries and pro­pose new ones.

Well, I’m not all that smart, but I do know this: I spend hours upon hours writing, brain­storming, mar­keting my writing, inter­acting with fans, doing sign­ings and on and on and on. The ratio of work to my old office job is at least 3:1. And everyone in the mil­i­tary knows that we work count­less unpaid hours, which, were we in equiv­a­lent pri­vate sector jobs (and even some public sector ones, cops make over­time, as do many civil ser­vants), would have us rich on time-and-a-half hours.

In both cases, I’m glad to do it. I *love* being a writer and I *love* being in the guard. Beyond enough money to feed, clothe and shelter myself (not there yet), this is really all I need.

But when I hear someone in a well-monetized career equate hard-work and riches, it bends me out of shape a little. Because it implies that the firemen, teachers, taxi-drivers, poets, NGO workers, Autism researchers and everyone else who are breaking their backs for sur­vival wages are barely keeping their heads above water simply because they aren’t working hard enough.

And that’s just not the case.

 

  • http://twitter.com/SheckyX Shecky X

    AMEN.

  • http://twitter.com/Autumn2May Jennie Ivins

    Agreed!  And can we add stay-at-home mom’s to that. It might not be a ‘job’ but it is a LOT of work.  And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. :)

  • http://twitter.com/Autumn2May Jennie Ivins

    Agreed!  And can we add stay-at-home mom’s to that. It might not be a ‘job’ but it is a LOT of work.  And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. :)

  • Mys­terysquid

    Bravo and amen. 

  • Peat

    To be fair, you have been a writer less than a year. How much were you making when you started that gov­ern­ment career? No doubt you were working hard then, too. Your hard work as a writer will likely pay future div­i­dends as well.

  • jmki­elec

    Unfor­tu­nately there are far too many things that people don’t con­sider “impor­tant” or things that take a damn lot of effort (like research, teaching), but don’t get a lot of respect: 
    http://​www​.huff​in​g​ton​post​.com/​p​a​u​l​-​s​t​o​l​l​e​r​/​c​o​l​l​e​g​e​-​p​r​o​f​e​s​s​o​r​-​s​a​l​a​r​i​e​s​_​b​_​1​3​9​7​5​4​9​.​h​tml

  • jmki­elec

    Unfor­tu­nately there are far too many things that people don’t con­sider “impor­tant” or things that take a damn lot of effort (like research, teaching), but don’t get a lot of respect: 
    http://​www​.huff​in​g​ton​post​.com/​p​a​u​l​-​s​t​o​l​l​e​r​/​c​o​l​l​e​g​e​-​p​r​o​f​e​s​s​o​r​-​s​a​l​a​r​i​e​s​_​b​_​1​3​9​7​5​4​9​.​h​tml

  • http://twitter.com/CarrieCuinn Carrie Cuinn

    I am, like you, cur­rently working harder and being quite a bit poorer than last year. I do it because I love what I’m doing with writing and editing, and because I believe that putting the work into my busi­ness now will mean some div­i­dends from pub­lishing down the road. But mostly I do it because I have a better chance at a *great* life, not just a good one, if I take this risk now.

    I know I’ll be suc­cessful, and I know you will too. We may have to mea­sure our suc­cess in some­thing other than cash, though.

  • casz brewster-rothe

    You’re right. It’s not the case. Bends you out of shape “a little?” I think you were trying to be too polite. But I fully concur. I left that secure gov­ern­ment job, too, in order to better take care of my chil­dren (including one with spe­cial needs) and have my art be my “work.” I’m busting ass like I never have before (basic training and mul­tiple deploy­ments truly pale in com­par­ison). But if I hear one more person tell me to get a real job I might just have to intro­duce their pie hole to their fourth point of contact. 

  • http://twitter.com/SeandBlogonaut Seand­Bl­og­o­naut

    The Queens­land Pre­mier (equiv­a­lent of Gov­ernor in the US) a day or so after being voted in, canned one of the most well regarded Lit­erary Prizes in the Country — a sav­ings of $250000 to help pay back a 60 bil­lion plus debt. but what got me was the response to the news sto­ries — a good per­centage of the com­menters were glad to see funding cut to ‘mooching’ writers, and that the writers should get off their back­side and get real jobs.  

    I was furious as every author I know in Aus­tralia works at least one job, they pay taxes and they vote.  Often the do the hard writing  work on top of the work they must do in order to survive.

    And the rich, well the rich I don’t think work any harder than the rest of us.  Through a com­bi­na­tion of luck and knowl­edge the bend the rules to their benefit.

    Note:  the above men­tioned Pre­mier hasn’t made any cuts to Busi­ness assistance.

  • http://twitter.com/SeandBlogonaut Seand­Bl­og­o­naut

    The Queens­land Pre­mier (equiv­a­lent of Gov­ernor in the US) a day or so after being voted in, canned one of the most well regarded Lit­erary Prizes in the Country — a sav­ings of $250000 to help pay back a 60 bil­lion plus debt. but what got me was the response to the news sto­ries — a good per­centage of the com­menters were glad to see funding cut to ‘mooching’ writers, and that the writers should get off their back­side and get real jobs.  

    I was furious as every author I know in Aus­tralia works at least one job, they pay taxes and they vote.  Often the do the hard writing  work on top of the work they must do in order to survive.

    And the rich, well the rich I don’t think work any harder than the rest of us.  Through a com­bi­na­tion of luck and knowl­edge the bend the rules to their benefit.

    Note:  the above men­tioned Pre­mier hasn’t made any cuts to Busi­ness assistance.

  • ddre

    I agree with what you’re saying here. working hard doesn’t always have high mon­e­tary rewards. How­ever, one thing that I’ve sensed in many opinons on this topic is that feeling that ‘hard work is suckers work’. If you work hard doesnt mean you’ll get some­where. I think that’s bs. The harder you work at some­thing the better you become. You’ve worked as an artist 3 times harder then at your gov­ern­ment job and I’m sure your artistic capa­bil­i­ties have improved greatly. When­ever anyone works hard at any­thing they’ll get mas­sive rewards in self improve­ment. at the end of the day you don’t live for money but for your­self and that’s the most impor­tant thing.

    That’s my two cents.