There is this thing that the job market provides artists. It is called exposure. This exposure is an equivalent of what the general job market in the country calls ‘experience.’ I dislike this word- exposure, unless it is referring to nakedness. I dislike it because it is what most people are riding on to exploit young artists, and in this case writers who are struggling so hard to earn a penny for their writing. I have talked about this before, but I will talk about it again because I have witnessed so much of it in the past few months that I just feel that I need to.
There is really never an excuse to use someone’s work to make money and fail to give them a little something for their effort. I mean, it is only fair to give Caesar what is his. Unfortunately, most publishers will often feel that they are doing a writer a huge favour by giving them a platform to be published. I do not refute that by the way. To have a platform to be read is not an easy thing to come by. It is a big opportunity first, money aside. It is for this reason that on behalf of all writers that have been given a platform, I thank you. However, it also helps when you think beyond this- that this writer has rent to pay, he or she has to board a Matatu to town, there is airtime to purchase, there is data. There are so many bills to pay!
Biko Zulu once called them ‘hungry writers’. The more I attend writers’ forums, the more I meet them. Everyone is looking for somewhere to sell their writing. Just somewhere to get a shilling for their own work. For some people, writing might come to them effortlessly, but a lot goes into it for some of us. There is a lot of research to be done, interviews, it costs conversations, sometimes even sleep and many cups of coffee. None of these is easy to find if all you get in return is ‘exposure.’ Isn’t it a tad bit funny how the word exposure refers to withoutness?
I do not want to sound money hungry, but who isn’t? I know it is very advisable for a creative to start by handing out work for free, letting people see your art first then asking for money later. However, you can only do this for so long. Well unless you have another way to supplement.
Imagine being a writer in a country where publishers won’t publish your work, ‘celebrity writers’ are always getting the jobs, magazines will give you ‘exposure’ if ever they agree to publish your work- how the hell are you supposed to eat?
We are indeed a country of hungry writers!