This past weekend I was in San Antonio--very nice place, even if it rained for most of the trip. There's the Riverwalk, a man-made river that goes straight through the place, surrounded by shops and restaurants. One area, La Villita, is an art village with lots of neat stuff. Pottery, glasswork, paintings, weavings...you name it.
Beau and I visited this co-op gallery, which is a bunch of local artists showcasing their stuff at a single shop. Very nice stuff, and I was surprised to see original pieces of art going for 20 bucks. I've sold flash stories for more than that! But as you go through the gallery, you can see why: there's a HUGE column of stuff, and you're just going through the canvases as if they were no more than discarded magazines at a used book store. It kind of got depressing, because it wasn't that any of these pieces of art were bad, just too much competition...which got me thinking of writing and submitting.
You have to compete with hundreds of thousands of writers, and you may be a perfectly good writer, but there are only so many slots in a given magazine/anthology. So sometimes you have to sell a story at a lower value than what you would've liked.
I truly dislike selling a story below 1 cent/word, but sometimes it's the only way to sell the darn thing. Or sit on the story till something better paying comes up, but then it may never see the light of day.
I know this isn't any revelation, and any old hand could tell you this, but sometimes you need the reminder. The notion of the starving artist is no joke.