The value of creative work

There’s a strongly held cultural belief that people who engage in creative work are poor, deserve to be poor, and, in many cases, need to be poor in order to continue to do creative work.

This is all bullshit. Well, except that many are poor.

We scoff at degrees in the arts. We tell people who want to pursue creative careers to get real jobs or to have back up plans.

Creative work is necessary for all of us. It’s part of what it is to be human. But that’s an argument I’ll flesh out more on another day.

Other people’s creative work is infused in our lives. We take it for granted and don’t realize how grey our lives would be if all of those people “just got real jobs.”

Writing: no books. No magazines. No blogs. No movies (someone has to write the script). No plays or musicals.

Graphic arts: no paintings (works hung on walls, works painted on walls). No mosaic works (various outdoor spaces, tabletops, walls). No book or magazine covers. No photographs (family portraits, places and things you’ve seen and not seen, wedding and other special events). Because I wasn’t sure where else to put this: no flower arrangements.

Live performances: no plays or musicals. No stand up comedy or improv comedy. No musical performances in bars or restaurants. No concerts in concert venues. No talk radio.

Recorded performances: all of the same as live performances plus: no movies. No podcasts. No audiobooks.

Music: no CDs/records/mp3s/streaming subscriptions/music radio. No background music in movies. No ambient music on the phone, in offices, in shopping centers, in the gym, at events.

Clothes and accessories: no “cute” clothes or shoes. No pretty scarves, hats, gloves, ties, jewelry, sunglasses. This category runs deep enough—I can’t say no clothes or shoes or bags, because we have made rules that we have to wear clothes and for general functionality, we need some sort of carrying cases, but it’s hard to imagine what the choices would be with no creative work involved. Also: no costumes.

Culinary: No decorated cakes or cookies. No new recipes. No food with good presentation.

I’m sure that list isn’t exhaustive and there are many others I missed. Hit me up and point out where I’ve left holes, and I’ll come back and add a list of things I missed.

Do you really believe that none of those are worth anything? That the people who have spent their lives creating so we can consume the arts should have gotten “real jobs”?

I encourage you to notice today and this week everywhere you consume creative work. And then to advocate for this work to be seen as real, to be paid like any other, not to be stolen on a regular basis. (While a handful of people who do this work are extremely wealthy, the majority of people who do this work are not.)

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