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.