Saturday, 22 March 2014

The business of unpaid work


Internship is a synonym for slave. That’s what my parents and entire family think anyway. Unfortunately in my field of work unpaid labour is a necessary evil.

When you tell anyone outside of the creative world that you are not getting paid a cent for turning up to an office where you work the usual 8 hour day and sit in front of a computer doing actual important shit that needs to be done and requires your immediate attention they give you a look a child gives you when they cannot comprehend why they are not allowed to eat lollies for dinner. Or sometimes it’s that same look someone gives you when some heinous putrid, road kill type smell suddenly appears out of nowhere. These are smart people, these are all the people I know with respectable well paid jobs. I know they are just looking out for me, a writer cannot live on passion alone. Even when I try to explain unpaid work I swear their brains shut down and are left pondering in a dark corner why on earth anyone would ever do anything for free.

Unfortunately both employer and employee directly benefit. The employer obviously gets free labour and the employee thinks they are getting the ferociously important experience and professional exposure needed to crack into the industry.

I tell myself daily this most certainly is a throbbingly ruthless joke made by cheap-ass big wigs and yeah I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of truth to that but I don’t see this changing anytime soon.
You see I’m all for a little bit of unpaid work. I have been an unpaid writer for some time and it has taught me one crucially important truth; this is where I belong. I wouldn’t sit in a law library perusing case by case for free, I wouldn’t walk the grey sterile walls of a hospital shadowing a surgeon free and I would certainly not happily sit at a desk doing calculus all day for naught. But I’ll happily write words and string them together to make an entertaining read if all I get in return is the satisfaction of knowing people are reading something that I created and they are hopefully gaining something from it, a snigger of a smile is all I ask.

My very rough draft of a life is slowly and lovingly turning into a pile of almost readable pages and I will happily say unpaid work has contributed to this improved draft. I am making a promise right now that the day my first paid article is published I will not only shout my closest family and friends to the best celebratory meal there is – Maccas obviously (I’m a writer, my money can’t pay for the fancy), but I will also do something outrageous with my life – heck maybe even get a tattoo (I kid, let’s not make permanent changes that quickly, I’m not a bohemian free spirit just yet). Hmmm I thought I could give you a definitive answer on the precise details but suddenly I’ve fallen into one of those rooms with several unopened boxes and I’m not sure which one to open. So I’ll get back to you on that.

I know it is hard to comprehend why anyone would gladly complete work for free but I’m just here to tell you that sadly there is no alternative. You either be a modern day slave to professionals worth listening to or a slob who wears no pants all day, binging on the contents of your pantry re-watching The West Wing and occasionally prying open your laptop when an idea pops into your head and that idea never sees the light of day. Okay, guilty as charged I have lived both of these lives but the second will get me nowhere, unless it’s winning the Einstein Factor with a brain full of West Wing knowledge.

So that is my ramble for the day. Bless you all for taking the time to read my strung together words, it means more than you can imagine.

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