So lately a variety of people have posted this article about the culture of unpaid arts and academic work, and while Slate is increasingly becoming about as reliable and readable as Salon, the article (which was originally posted on Jacobin, natch) nicely articulates a lot of frustrations I have with the culture around writing, arts organizing, and "getting involved." The writer does a decent job of balancing practical and philosophical concerns, and while the author (wisely) doesn't propose a practical solution to the free-work/dismissal of labor problem, I like the ways-of-thinking suggestions in the last paragraph.
Because while a lot of the internship/volunteer/lowpay positions came into existence because of economic realities surrounding pursuits of artistic, spiritual, or intangible value, they are increasingly re-enforced by a sorta beatific, pie-in-the-sky mentality truly available to only a few. The human soul needs to be nourished, but folks tend to nourish the body first. So unlike nurses and mousetrap-makers, most people with any type of say, humanities degree, won't always have a market for their work.
I think the do-what-you-love-and-it-isn't-work paradigm ironically creates a self-love/self-loathing hamster wheel for artists, writers, designers, researchers, who don't feel they have any "real" skills, yet also see themselves as elevated by "pursuing their passions" after years of having their professors tell them to. (or you know, years of following the blog of an oil heiress who decided to quit her job and "make a living" selling necklaces made out of chicken feathers while practicing a self-invented form of yoga and tutting disapprovingly at those in the "rat race.")
There's a longer discussion here with regards to ideas about what it means to be "serious about your art" that tends to get caught up in these pinwheels as well.
At this point I've made an evolving, uneasy peace with ways I pursue my art, ways I pursue my livelihood, and how often the two do or don't intersect. Every individual has to do that on their own; I sort of figured on getting a Creative Writing Degree that bartending, or record store working (ha!) was going to figure heavily in my future.
This is why I roll my eyes at the precious snowflackes who complain that they just "aren't being fullfilled" or feel like they "just, you know, want something more. . ." from their work. I mean, if a job sucks, yeah, get outta there, go for the promotion, etc. but sometimes work is just, you know, work. And that's fine.