Thursday, 6 February 2020

Why shouldn't creatives celebrate their own success? This week's #ReadItTorial2020

Noseying into yet another Twitter conversation as the inspiration for this week's ReadItTorial, I read an exchange between two noted comic creatives who were musing on the concept of celebrating their own successes, and how caustic the reaction can be when you do so on social media.

Ah, the British. We are a nation that, on the one hand, are fiercely proud of our heritage (despite most of it coming from abroad), almost to a fault. We also seem to have an inbuilt pathological dislike of success, partly justified when people who regularly 'fail upwards' here seem to reap amazing rewards despite being utterly hopeless.

BUT we are also very quick to kick people when they're down, extracting some twisted sense of deep joy when someone fails so spectacularly that they make the news, or become a meme, or whatever the modern equivalent of 'ending up in the stocks pelted with rotten fruit' is.

When I see creatives talking about being shy about celebrating their successes, or perhaps even talking about some nice thing they've purchased for themselves off the back of their hard-earned endeavours in kidlit, comics or art, I can't help thinking we've all got it completely wrong here. Why do we feel the need to chastise folk who describe how a book advance has helped them realise their dream of going on a smashing holiday, doing up their crumbling house, hell - even purchasing a flashy new gadget to further their creative efforts? Yet here we are.

This topic dovetails neatly with another that I keep meaning to drag onto our ReadItTorial slot, the thorny subject of due reward when it comes to creative effort. Many times we've discussed the class divide in children's publishing, and that extends out into other forms of creative and non-creative writing. Let's face it, to make a career in writing you need to have at least another (quite often non-creative) career that pays your bills - possibly for a very long time - before you can lop that off and just concentrate your efforts on the creative stuff.

Long ago I completely gave up on taking my meagre art training forwards into anything either in furthering my education or trying to build a freelance or paid gig career from it. Not just because (truthfully) I'm not very good, but mostly because I know I can earn enough to support a family and own a house from working in the soul-crushing hate-filled abcess of a job known as "IT". In a world where you either work your bollocks off to make a living, or you're born with a silver spoon jammed firmly between the lips you never kiss with, you could probably count huge moneyspinning creative career professionals you know or converse with on the fingers and toes you possess, possibly with a few left over.

I really wish it wasn't that way. I would love to be paid to write, I really would. Writing is something I can do, at great speed, in great volume, but I've never seen anything I could move sideways into, writing wise, that could possibly compete with my current gig in terms of a solid monthly pay packet that's fairly comfortable to live on, if not excessive.

New authors must feel a little bit like this. Some are prolific and can turn out enough books to keep their heads above water, but for most, the creative process is time (and resource) consuming and can't just be churned through - and for most, if they can manage a book a year, they feel they're doing OK - and I doubt there are many emerging authors in kidlit who could earn an advance that's good enough to live on for a year when they're starting out.

Virtually every single piece of guidance I see for new and prospective authors and illustrators in kidlit start with the stark point one of "Never do it for the money, there is no money" and that remains true. Which, in a roundabout way, brings me back to my original point of thinking that we should be clapping creatives on the back when they make enough to afford something nice for themselves, not shouting them down for it.