July 25: A Quick Note on Professionalism

Hi, all!  Still coming down to earth after attending Toronto Mad Pride 2012, where I did a reading for their “Architecture of Mad” themed arts night on July 12.  More news on this (complete with pics!) in a later post.  Ditto links to the new MOSAIC for August, which will feature the spoken word piece I did at the commemoration of the re-built Owen Sound bandstand on June 30.

Maybe we should pause on the bandstand thing, for it makes a nice segue into the main theme of today’s post.  Consider the following infogram/macro/whatsit:

Scraped from FB (where else?)

I love writing, and I shall write whether I get paid to or not.  I enjoy performing, and I am always on the look out for venues (like coffee houses and Slams) even if these don’t pay.  And I am truly stoked at the opportunities this community provides me for getting myself out there and contributing to the best of the best of my abilities.  So I am looking forward to the August 6 Read-In at the Owen Sound Public Library protesting the library’s decision to start closing on Mondays.

But I’ve been thinking.  I’ve decided that after the Library Read-In, I can no longer do pro bono writing.  It’s not that I don’t want to.  It’s that I just can’t.

It’s great to be some sort of self-styled community poet — even the media have mistaken me for Owen Sound’s Poet Laureate; this is flattering, of course, but also problematic. This town has a Poet Laureate.  A Poet Laureate with a paid commission to represent the community how he or she sees fit.  Moreover, so far as I know, though I could be wrong, all our Poets Laureate (previous and current) have or have had some sort of fall-back financial resources (viz., jobs, careers, royalties, savings, investments, real estate, Canada Council or Ontario Arts Council grants — what have you).  Not so this guy.

I repeat: I love volunteering my time and abilities in the community in the best ways I can — as a speaker and writer — and shall continue to do so in some capacity (likely as an events host); but I also make no bones about being financially straitened (as I’ve joked, “I’m the Poet Laureate of ODSP”).  It’s bad enough that there’s precious little money in poesy or fiction even for established writers with day jobs and fall-backs (a typical print run for a poetry book in this country is 500 copies!), so to write or perform consistently and exclusively as a community service with little or no remuneration when I am barely employable at conventional work is just too damn much.

Writing is pretty much all I have. I’m still interested in community projects and the like, but I must treat these as paid employment. I don’t write or perform for shits and giggles, nor to obtain intangible benefits like exposure. I’m a professional. It’s what I do for a living — even if I can’t make a living off it.

I don’t mind paying dues, so long as the dues are deducted from a paycheque.

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About Richard-Yves Sitoski

50% protruding nail, 50% hammer. I am an Activist for Mental Health Issues from the peer perspective (i.e., as a "Consumer" / "User" / "Client" / "Survivor"--what have you). My immediate goal is to provide a clearing house and networking node for others who live with emotional and mental health issues. Not all of us can function at a high level--at least not all of the time--and most of us are hampered by geographical, educational, social, ideological, economic, physical, intellectual and cognitive impairments which can range from the unpleasant but tolerable to the wholly unendurable. Add stigma to the mix and it's a wonder some of us ever maintain articulacy at all. What am I doing about it? As an inhabitant of a medically underserved community in Western Ontario, Canada, I have had to deal with a number of the aforementioned problems. I do, however, enjoy the benefits of a Bulldog tenacity coupled with a Jack Russell wit. I can provide a voice for the voiceless, I can provide activism on behalf of the impaired, and best of all, I can push for more grass-roots, bottom-up citizen influence in a top-down, "provider"-based bureaucratic system.
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2 Responses to July 25: A Quick Note on Professionalism

  1. karenrosalie says:

    Dear Richard…
    Writing is with absolute certainty, the thing you were created to do. You deserve to be paid. I have watched you labor over many projects, much as a mother labors to bring forth her child. It has been my pleasure and honour to be the first to hear or read many of your works. The rough draft reading, the incomplete reading, the “I’m gonna change that part” reading and those delivered with a twinkle in your eye… all have delighted me. As you know, since I am never shy about telling you….some pieces have completely turned me inside out, either as a mental health survivor or as a woman. Others have puzzled my faculties and you have patiently explained. You have pushed past multiple difficulties with determination that has not always been easy to muster and stayed on the path. I have been gratified to watch you grow. Congratulations. I’m really proud of you.

  2. Pingback: The Author Asserts His Independence « WunderNutbar's Blog by Richard-Yves Sitoski

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