Writing for Free

Tim Kreider, writing for the New York Times

The first time I ever heard the word “content” used in its current context, I understood that all my artist friends and I — henceforth, “content providers” — were essentially extinct. This contemptuous coinage is predicated on the assumption that it’s the delivery system that matters, relegating what used to be called “art” — writing, music, film, photography, illustration — to the status of filler, stuff to stick between banner ads.

Such a great article, and so many thoughts. First of all, I'm reminded of a professor and mentor in college, talking about never writing for free. He told a story of a student who invited him to dinner with his parents. The student's father, an attorney, had written a manuscript for a story that he wanted my professor to read and edit.

"Great," said my professor. "I'll bring my will and my writing contracts for him to review."

"Oh no," replied the student. "He won't do that for free. He does that for a living."

Another great quote from the piece:  

My parents blew tens of thousands of 1980s dollars on tuition at a prestigious institution to train me for this job. They also put my sister the pulmonologist through medical school, and as far as I know nobody ever asks her to perform a quick lobectomy — doesn’t have to be anything fancy, maybe just in her spare time, whatever she can do would be great — because it’ll help get her name out there.

I've made the mistake in the past of writing for free for this same reason - to drive traffic to my website or to get my name out there. These days, the only place I write for free is here. I go to networking events and hand out cards, link to people on Facebook and Twitter, and build real-life relationships that turn into paid gigs. But I don't write for free. It's never been worth the cost.