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Writing IS Work

Gift is for every man / a pride and a praise / help and worthiness / and of every homeless adventurer / it is the estate and substance / for those who have nothing else. - Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem

Today, I came across this post via Jo's blog, and it prompted me to share some thinky thoughts with y'all. From the blog, if you don't want to click links yet:

"Recently, one YA author opted to start a KickStarter campaign to fund the second book in a series. Stacy Jay Released Princess of Thorns via Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House) on December 9, 2014. Initial sales did not meet expectations so the publisher declined to pick up the second book in the series. As an aside, initial sales? The book isn’t even a month old! Sorry, now back to your regularly scheduled blog post. Stacy harbors no ill will towards the publisher, it was a business decision, nothing more, nothing less. Still, she had readers clamoring for the second book, so she launched a KickStarter Campaign to fund the creation of book two...An Internet kerfluffle ensued."

I will be honest with y'all: I have mulled over whether or not to do a kickstarter/gofundme type campaign for the Godspouse book that I'm working on, because I would like to pay for editing, and I lack the cash on hand to pay a reasonable rate for editing - $1/pg is reasonable, and I'm currently at 125 pages, and I'm probably about half done. I am one of those people whose words counts are low on the first draft and then I have to be prompted to fill stuff in by an editor or beta reader. And I am a vehement believer that every, everyone needs editing, no matter how much of a literary genius you are. There are a couple people that I can think of off of the top of my head whom I would pay for edits; they do good work, deserve to be paid for it, and they could use the money.

But I haven't, because there is a certain Cult of Free in Paganism that makes me cringe. People want well-trained Pagan leaders, they want good books on X subject, they want awesome events...they often don't want to pay for them. Or can't pay. And so the only people who get training are those who can afford it, and thus those courses/books/etc become more expensive because instead of people paying what they can afford, it's become an all or nothing proposition.

I don't like this situation at all.

And please don't misunderstand - I understand not being able to afford Xthing - I have a disability and I'm a single parent. I haven't received a child support payment in four months. My budget's been $400 short for four months, y'all. I've had the fortune (?) of being poorer than I am now, and so I know how to live within my budget, but it does not leave any room for extras. Like editing. Or a good book cover. Or clergy training. Caveat: if you know who my child's father is, please don't fling poo at him; this particular problem is bureaucratically induced.

My point is that I do a lot of free work. Pastoral counseling, in particular, and I have never been paid for it. I know some people here would point out that in other (mostly monotheistic) religions, that's not something that you pay for, but in those faiths, the pastor receives a salary and often a home to live in as compensation for their work. I live in a stable home, thanks to Loki's gifts and my ancestors' hard work. I am grateful for all I have been given, and I could still do more, if I earned more. Working a conventional day job is not physically possible for me. When this illness began, I had a definite period of adjustment and even grief in understanding that I would never again be able to teach children, not in the capacity that I did before - my immune system can't take being in that environment - too many germs, too many chemicals, dust, mold, all the things that my lungs hate. Being able to teach in my spiritual community has helped to lessen that grief, as I understood that I acquired that background for this work.

And make no mistake, this IS my job. I write, I do community work, I do pastoral counseling, I teach online, I teach in person. And I'd like to do all of those things better. In order to do so, I have to be willing to compensate the people that I learn from for their time and expertise. The prospect of doing that with no return is a daunting one, not just for me, but for anyone who's contributing to the community - writers, artisans, teachers, and ministers. Right now, we lack temples and congregations that would help offset those expenses. Rebuilding the temples and making sustaining communities is a long-term goal, and everyone interested and involved is aware of this - all I would ask of you gentle readers is that we not burn out those who are doing the work by not giving them anything back.

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Lokean nun, writer, swamp witch. Heather is a Pagan monastic, writer, editor, and mother. She has written and edited for a variety of publications and social media, including science journals, romance novels, and technology blogs. She also holds degrees in education and speech-language pathology, and has a passion for historical linguistics.


  • Sable Aradia
    Sable Aradia Saturday, 17 January 2015 Yes, people need to get paid for their work so that they can pay the bills, because the utility companies don't take anything but money. Terrible what this woman experienced.

  • Julia Hayes
    Julia Hayes Saturday, 17 January 2015

    Heather~ Thank you for your post. You've got my wheels turning. I appreciate your raw critical perspective on not only the publishing world but the general idea of offering a service and being paid for it.
    I just read a marvelous article in a Buddhist magazine about a similar topic. The author refers to himself as the white trash of Buddhism. The guy who would love to afford to go on retreats but is piece-mealing together funds from 2 or 3 low paying jobs just to feed his family, pay the bills and eek out enough gas money to maybe drive to a dharma talk once in awhile. The division of affluence continues to widen.
    Coupled to this is something I saw advertised on an on-line course with Brene Brown I think it was. It caught my attention because she was offering a 50% discount to people. (or at least her advertisers were) I didn't bother checking out the cost of the course because I was mildly disgusted by the whole thing. Here's an over-night sensation, which is a real misnomer since she's been a professor teaching and perfecting her perspective on vulnerability for years, reaching the masses through Oprah, and Tedtalks now teaching on-line...But even she (or again her advertisers) can't get what she wants to charge, which makes me ask, how much is she charging and why so much to begin with?
    This is no easy topic. I think this will remain a particular challenge for women who are still conditioned to offer their talents and service for free...and if not offer them freely to at least apologize for having to charge. I don't know what the steps to deconditioning are but you've got me thinking more and more about it.
    Here's to your work, your book, your talent, your health, your family in a system that is skewed in ways to boggle the imagination. I wish you success and security.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Saturday, 17 January 2015

    I agree. Writing is real work, as is art. Organizing events is real work, too, but I don't see any way to ever get paid for that, even though it comes with expenses like gas. Books can be sold, though, so my book income actually subsidizes my priestess work to the extent that I can devote any of it to anything but survival.

  • Sebastian Lokason
    Sebastian Lokason Sunday, 18 January 2015

    Thank you. THANK you. THANK YOU.

    As someone who is Pagan and financially challenged, I also despise The Cult of Free Paganism - expecting people to undercut themselves for their services isn't actually helping me, as a poor person, it's hurting me as a poor craftsperson, and when people do charge less than what they're worth it hurts all of us who make things whether it's books, crafts, or some combination thereof. Writing is work. Making crafts for the Pagan community - Pagan jewelry, candles, etc - is work. Even though money is chronically tight for me, I seriously do not mind paying for Pagan-made handicrafts or books written by Pagans (especially if they're being independently published) when I want them - my philosophy is if you truly want something, you will be willing to pay for it in some way, and I find a LOT of us who are Pagan and make things, need that bit of extra money to help with stuff, it's our livelihood, so expecting something for free isn't just gross and entitled to begin with, but is literally screwing someone out of their livelihood.

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