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.huffingtonpost.com/paul-stoller/college-professor-salaries_b_1397549.html

  • 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.huffingtonpost.com/paul-stoller/college-professor-salaries_b_1397549.html

  • 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.