I try not to make this blog too political, but I think that the arts are as always under attack, under funded and not valued in society which is why this please me so very much.
As I was driving on Tuesday to the semi-annual developmental workforce meeting for my teaching job, I took the hour plus mind-numbing drive to catch up on the world around me, by tuning into my local NPR channel.
But as my hand left the preset, I wanted to scream.
Now fans of NPR know there is one week (every six months or so) that you want to avoid: fund-raising week, were every show you love is continuously interpreted with a guilt inducing plea for funds:
“If you love this show, don’t you want to keep it on the air….”
“It is people like you who…..”
“If we don’t raise $$$$, your favorite host will be executed at dawn….”
Ok, maybe the last quote was made up. But, it’s probably only a matter a time.
After five to ten minutes, I’m usually so worn down that I wish I wasn’t broke and had copious amounts of cash just so I could offer it to NPR to just shut up during day one.
But, as I listened, today I thought different about it. Maybe as artist we need to be able to channel our inner NPR/PBS, that almost cocky, whining desperate plea that screams, “I provide a service, I deserve to be compensated.” Even if it means we turn off a few of our readers/watchers.
It’s hard, as an indie artist to make a living, harder if we fall into a trap where we are afraid to demand (or ask) for compensation for work.
The reasons, I think are varied. I tend to struggle with not wanting to annoy people as well as sometimes not feeling qualified.
But, I think I might just give this a try.
Yesterday, my lovely bestie Ashy, (check out her work) and I were talking about the ups and downs of being an artist. We have both had our ups and downs and have like many artist struggle with, still can not find a happy balance between commercial prosperity and doing what you like (even if it isn’t commercially viable.)
For example, I love poetry. Its probably my best craft, but even if I am amazing and well-recognized for it, it very hard to eek out a living. so what do I do? Stick with what I love most? Try and do more commercial stuff? Do a combo of both?
I am lucky that I can eek out a living as an English Professor which does give me time to write, but others aren’t as lucky.
And if that wasn’t hard enough. Ashy, a painter spent a lot of time discussing options with renting at galleries and using agents (both of which are recommended.) Between the fees each would take, she’d net around 10 percent of the profits.
We spent an hour or so pondering if its better to “sell-out” then do what you love; do what you love and find a different income; do what you love and hope it is commercially viable; or do a combo of both?
So my question to you, do you consider money when making art? How do you reconcile the economic need with your artistic soul?
Ok I’ll admit it. There’s times I’ve illegally shared (who doesn’t love CD burning parties) other people’s work for various reasons (like it’s really REALLY hard to find a copy KISS meets the Phantom of the Park). Oh I knew it was wrong, but its just so easy to justify. (Hey I spend 100 on concert tickets, I can burn my friends cd right…..) Of course like all good pirates, I had boundaries. No stealing from indy or upcoming artists………
I say all of this to admit that on this topic I am a sinner.
Still, after a few conversations I’ve had with a few of the 101 Composition classes I’ve visited over the past semester, I’m shocked at the over all consensus on copyright law: copy right laws should not exist. If someone can steal work and make money off of them, the better for it….and well, hey you should just make more work to sell.
I was honest with the class. Telling them about my past, why I did what I did, why it was wrong but why I did it, etc….
I tried having them imagine that they were inventors and artist who had their work stolen….
What about indy artist…….
After hours of discussion, the consensus remained the same.
I’m not naive. I know (as Rand Paul) illustrates that there are certain people that don’t respect the idea of copyright laws, but I was still surprised to find so many people feel that the American way is stealing and that artist who have things stolen are just out of luck, should just stop whining and go out and make new work.
Any ideas how to impart the grain of discourse?
I have mixed emotions over the idea behind Write A House but I thought I would share it with you, my readers, because it might be of use to some of you.
It’s fairly simple. If you are a writer, you can apply for a free house in Detroit. The up side, you can get a house rent free (minus utilities, taxes and with contingent on some other rules.) The downside you have to live in Detroit which has become a fairly crime-ridden city.
But someone has to turn around Detroit don’t they? And hey if successful, maybe Detroit will turn into a little piece of art heaven which you can be a part of. For poor starving artists like myself, well, it would give you a roof over you head and a place to write.
You can check out writeahouse at their website. They have more detail about the application process and rules that apply.
Be an artist. Paint. Write. Play the banjo. Sing in the shower. Whittle figures out of soap. Write lyrics in bathroom stalls. Do anything and everything that connects you with your creative potential.
Imagine. Explore. Dream.
Don’t be angry if your parents or teachers try to discourage you. They are worried, worried for you. Money rules the world in so many way and bleeds into our fears for the one that they love. Adults try to pretend this fear doesn’t exist. But it does.
But they don’t understand. They don’t know what it is like for words to course through your veins and swell your body until a pen realizes it. They haven’t found salvation in a dingy light club with a sweaty rock and roll man screaming as the crowd swells against you. Or spent all day staring at clouds. Or spent six hours trying to find the right shade of red. They simply are just not wired like you,do not thirst art like water, do not breathe it in like air.
Realize that this beauty is more powerful than any dollar amount, and may never bring you any money. Realize that the late nights and long hours are worth what you are doing for nothing more than the finishing line of a poem. That fame and success do not add to your work. You do not have to be Picasso. My art, your art, our art will have a rippling effect that no one will fully comprehend. One speck of paint can bring the heavens to weep.
Creation. Taking nothing, taking parts and making a whole is contained within itself, a wonder that mimics the heavens.
Be an artist because the world tells you to become an investment banker but just as the word needs financiers, scientists and doctors, the world needs a soul.
Be an artist because the world sucks. In the darkness, we need your light of hope. We need a voice that screams, “I feel how you feel. You are not alone.” And in the light we need the darkness, an everlasting reminder of the yin and yang of life.
And never apologize for it. Be who you are. And love what you do. Those who understand will never chastise you. And those who don’t, will never understand.
I am a sane person. Let me stress this, when I’m not on an adventure or at a concert, I’m an in bed at ten p.m. on a Friday night sort of girl. I drive a Taurus. I work with 5 year olds. I live an unassuming life in a quiet town in the heart of Illinois.
Nothing terribly exciting.
Except now I’ve lost it.
I purchased a nook days ago, and before the soft glow of its artificial light had grown dim, I found myself glued to the computer like a crazy-cat lady is to icanhascheezerburger, desperately seeking out all free ebooks, that the Nook has to offer.
Books and more books. Old friends, Hemingway, Dickens and Plath are just a touch of the finger away and others, writers who I have never heard of, are pulling me away from reality, inviting me to dance in their world.Do any of you have a Nook? If so how do you resist the urge to spend all of your time seeking out new works to read?
How do you budget?
I could see myself spending much too much on this, especially since you can set up an online account with a credit card (so I won’t have to see the total until I get the bill.)
A friend of mine advised me to buy a gift card at the beginning of the year and allot my money that way. I’m thinking about try this and if I do, I’ll let you know how it works.