Independent writers must be artists, business-people and citizens all at once.
Other self-employed Canadians also don’t face the challenges those in the cultural industry face. For the most part, they sell their goods in the same year they are produced. They don’t rely on the Copyright Act to provide them with a description of their services, which can change at government will. They don’t face an almost constant demand for volunteer labour from corporations, libraries and schools who pay fair market value for other services. We learn to say no while lobbying in our spare time.
We are artists, because governments determine the description of our services and the value of everything we sell through treaties, the Copyright Act and creator-driven programs like the Public Lending Right.
Last year, for example, a single added word in the copyright act may have taken $1,000 from my already minuscule income. Schools and libraries are now fighting to ensure that writers subsidize their operations by arguing strenuously that every use of any text in a school or other educational institution doesn’t have a fee. Meanwhile, they happily pay for new technologies like white boards and iPads.
We are business people too, and our businesses are facing unusually difficult working conditions. As media outlets, corporations, governments and others cut employees; we have to learn how to do more for less. When clients want to cut costs, the price for writing too often is the first fee to drop. We have to search for new sources of revenue, cut costs and operate efficiently.
Yet we also remain citizens. Writers, particularly those who practice journalism, frequently learn about the operations of governments at all levels. We often understand how many short cuts occur when decisions get made. Those of us who live in democracies have a crucial responsibility to try to make government work. That means informing others about what’s happening, of course, but it also means taking our civic responsibilities seriously. Whether that means donating, fundraising, organizing, running for office, serving on boards, voting, or volunteering for government or non-government organizations is up to the individual. Many people do all of those things at least some of the time.
Doing nothing is not an option.
Here are a few important dates for Canadian writers to put into your calendar. Since citizens act locally, regionally and federally, there are plenty of international days in this list too.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Canadian Writers’ Advocacy Calendar
- June 28: Submission deadline for nominations of candidates for literacy prizes
- September 8: UNESCO International Literacy Day (http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/education-building-blocks/literacy/literacy-prizes/)
- September 15: International Day of Democracy http://www.un.org/en/events/democracyday.shtml
- September 16 to October 11: Canadian House of Commons in session http://www.parl.gc.ca/housechamberbusiness/ChamberCalendar.aspx?Language=E
- September 30: Calendar of session submitted by speaker
- October 14 to 18: Members of Parliament home in their ridings
- October 21 to November 8: Canadian House of Commons in session
- November 11 to 15: Members of Parliament home in their ridings
- November 18 to December 13: Canadian House of Commons in session
- December 10: United Nations International Human Rights Day http://www.un.org/en/events/humanrightsday/
- January 25 to May 16: Canadian House of Commons in session
- February 22 to 28: Freedom to Read Week across Canada http://www.freedomtoread.ca/
- March 25: International Woman’s Day http://www.internationalwomensday.com/
- May 3:UNESCO World Press Freedom Day (site by the World Association of Newspapers groups, www.worldpressfreedomday.org)
- May 19 to May 23: Members of Parliament home in their ridings
- May 21: World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development http://www.un.org/en/events/culturaldiversityday/
- May 26 to June 6: Canadian House of Commons in session
- June 6: Possible last day of Canadian House of Commons
- June 9 to 20: Canadian House of Commons sitting days, if extended