Shortly after I had my first article published in Extra Newsfeed, I began realizing some Medium content was adorned with a little black star and the phrase “story for members.” The notion that I could actually get paid to write was very exciting, and I jumped on board immediately, for two main reasons.
I have a significant student loan burden.
With hindsight, I am well aware that art college wasn’t the best decision I’ve ever made. But when I decided to go, times were simpler. For instance, this was several years before the Great Recession of 2008. And, as one might expect, many 19-year-olds are a bit naïve and susceptible to various form of influence that are wielded by older and seemingly wiser individuals. In short, every “adult” in my midst had only positively reinforced my desire to persue this endeavor.
The experiences and knowledge I gained during my time as a photography student are moments I will cherish forever, but the debt I incurred during this life-changing saga stifles me to this day. After a decade of making payments, I still have tens of thousands of dollars remaining. The difference between having monthly student loan payments and not having them is the difference between making above what is widely considered a “living wage” and what is considered well below that marker. There is some vague stigma regarding whether folks should discuss the specifics of their debt, but here is a statistic I don’t mind revealing: About 23% of my income (before taxes) goes toward student loan payments. This happens to be roughly equivalent to my monthly rent fee.
In addition to my full-time job, I see writing as a potential means of pulling myself up by my own bootstraps, as it were: The more I am able to thrive as a writer, the sooner I will be debt-free.
I believe creative expression counts as “work.”
Everyone’s work is important, as it positively contributes to the fabric of our society in various way (okay, maybe excluding Wall Street bankers). While professional athletes often receive multi-million dollar contracts, the reality of the “starving artist” is as pervasive as ever. Sure, many Hollywood actors, directors, authors, etc. are wealthy, but there is a noticeable discrepancy when it comes to art vs. entertainment.
Can you imagine life without cinema, without novels and poetry, without music? Artists play an indispensible role in our lives, which we often take for granted. They are responsible for reinterpreting the beauty of nature, elucidating the depths of the human condition, satirizing the powerful, and telling inspiring and compelling stories through an endless array of mediums.
I am by no means a brilliant artist that deserves fame and fortune. And artistic endeavors certainly have their own intrinsic rewards. But creative folks struggling to get by in the wealthiest nation in human history seems a little grim, and quite possibly unjustifiable. I am therefore glad that I have found this glimmer of hope in the harsh world of freelance writing.
Thank you for reading and supporting my work. Medium and its users have been a therapeutic creative outlet and an invaluable source of feedback during this last year. I am genuinely grateful for this inspiring and erudite community of writers and readers.