Creating Art Absolutely Involves Privilege

It’s been interesting to follow the Stacey Jay Kickstarter controversy around the internet this week, ’cause it’s one of those moments where we’re reminded that the public perception of how the arts should be valued is a) batshit crazy and b) still based on theories of creative genius that requires no work.

If you haven’t followed the internet storm and don’t intend to follow the links, the short version goes like this:

1) a YA author turns to kickstarter to fund the production of the second book in her series, as self-publishing requires far fewer readers to be successful than going through a big publishing house;

2) said kickstarter is poorly executed in all sorts of ways, but it’s biggest sin is suggesting that a sizable percentage of the funds would be spent on the author’s living expenses while writing;

3) internet explodes, as only the internet can. Said author apologizes, closes down her kickstarter, and withdraws from the internet for her own mental health.

We’re now in the fall-out stage, where writers and bloggers from all over the internet start picking through the ruins of what happened ad debating the value of art. My favourite response, thus far, comes from YA author Marni Bates’ and includes the following point:

3. Art shouldn’t be a privilege. If we are paying Stacey to write then she is receiving a special privilege.

Answer: Creating art absolutely involves privilege. Virginia Woolf nailed it when she said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” That’s the brutal truth. If you don’t have money, you will be spending all of those writing hours looking for steady employment.

I don’t know how many ways I can find to sit here and say, yes, exactly that, but…yes, exactly that. Of all the weird, misguided shit people get into their head about creating art, the fact that it’s some spiritual or essential experience instead of an enormous privilege is one that drives me crazy.

It’s always worth remembering that art is a privilege. The world does not owe you an audience as an artist, but by the same token, the world doesn’t owe you art, either. If you love someone’s work, expect to pay for it.

Also, if you’re a writer and you’ve never read A Room of One’s Own, I strongly recommend it.

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