I'm actually taking writing for free one step further: I pay to do it. I pay with my soul at my day job, I pay to attend writers conferences, I pay with time apart from loved ones. I spend concentration, fits of obsession, and available evenings on it. It sometimes feels like a co-dependent partner not holding up its end of the deal and who never contributes to the rent.
And then sometimes it feels like a lover: a generous, challenging, inspiring mate-for-life who forever helps me see further than I've seen before and love deeper than I've ever loved before.
Currently it's somewhere in between. I just organized a mini-writing retreat with several writing friends for a weekend this summer. It seems a little excessive to require a vacation rental to accomplish as many hours of writing as we plan to accomplish, but I also know the investment (coupled with the positive peer pressure of other writers writing around me) really will "pay" off. In word count, in ideas, in focused time. And by splitting costs and meal responsibilities, it will cost 1/4 what an official writing conference would cost. And more importantly, it will provide time to write, not just talk about writing.
Sure, I hope the time creates something (i.e. a final revision to the novel manuscript) that elicits less metaphorical payouts and more of the actual cold hard cash kind. But in the meantime, I will be glad that metaphors don't get taxed, require no paperwork, and never ask you to act like you care when you don't.