Craft and Cash

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I’m all for people doing what they like as a job.  It’s usually not what they think, and it is a job, but it’s nice to see.  I even write about do-what-you like, and every now and then, I note that it’s not for everyone.

This is one of those times thanks to Serdar and a discussion on how education for creatives assumes the goal is “make money at it” way too often.  I realized there’s a parallel – books and training that assumes your interest is absolute perfection of your craft, even if your thought is just “I want a job.”

We need to ask what fits our audience.

Being good at your creative path is about craft.  It’s knowing the right words, it’s learning how to do shading, it’s getting that stitch in a costume just right.  Your chosen creative path may be about being good at getting to a result that fits your creative goals.

The money may not matter.  Or, perhaps, it shouldn’t, and you’d be happier if you just did your craft.

Being good at making money at your creative path is about more than craft.  It’s marketing and advertising, job hunting and writing to market.  In some cases, the craft of “doing it as well as possible” is secondary to barely a concern.

Making money at something may not require the highest craft, and it may even be a barrier.  I can point you at many a greasy spoon that may not provide haute cuisine, but they’re delicious.

Think about crappy novels you’ve mocked, TV shows that made you wonder, “how did this go five seasons?” and so on.  How come these things sold?  How come they’re not good yet they make bank?  Couldn’t anyone churn out that bad light novel?

The answer is no because craft and making money at it aren’t the same thing.  Sure, they intersect, but not in ways that may immediately make sense.  A well-written novel may languish, but a simple potboiler with simple language can be a bestseller as the author’s craft was write what will sell before writing “well.”

This is where I’d like to see classes, advice books, etc. make distinctions – if only to be clearer who their market is.  Sometimes you want to be good at your craft, sometimes you want to make money, and sometimes you want to explore that borderland.  Those giving advice will be better at it if they consider the many motivations that lead people to their door.

This is where I’m glad for my Way With Worlds series.  There’s no focus on monetization or careers, just on asking world-building questions.  People are free to pick and choose what advice they need, and I’m not interested in “what worlds sell.”  Maybe that’s why they feel so liberating to write – they’re all about craft after I’ve done many career books.

Any of us sharing creative advice need to ask where our works stand on the craft and monetization scale.  The creative world would be a better place for it.

Steven Savage