Friday, October 16, 2009

Making Our Own Justice (A Riff on "Virtual CrowdSurfing")

The other day Steve Bodio commented on one of my entries, and noted that “ a just world you'd be paid for this.”
I agreed, even though it wasn't my best writing (the re-write the computer ate was much better), but was dismissive too. I said, and it's true, that I'm just happy to put something into the world that will either resonate with another human being, or elucidate, inform or excite.
I come from what I've begun to describe as a lonely culture – It's sparsely populated, but it is a culture in whole - I'm proud of it and think we're all very interesting. I'm always glad to strike a chord with others who identify. And I'm thrilled if something from my culture sparks or rekindles something in someone else. That's deeply satisfying for me. At the end of the day, I write to fulfill and satisfy myself, and I'd lie if I said I didn't draw part of my satisfaction from being read. The creation is fundamental, and it drives on regardless, but it's satisfying to have a cry in the darkness answered. As a reader I've always felt I was participating in the writers finished art, rather than just receiving it – As a writer, I seek to participate with my readers not simply produce product.
But in a just world, if the participation is good, if the work is good, I should get paid shouldn't I? Of course I should. In a just world.
I'm not sure I believe the world is just. I believe the world is neutral though, and that it is up to us to make our own... whatever, really. Including justice. I believe this is true, on many fronts. As artists, we have to make a lot of things for ourselves, so what's stopping us from making our own justice? Okay, maybe not make entirely, but enable.
We can't necessarily force people to pay for our art - If we limit its availability only to those who pay we may be limiting ourselves right out of existence – But we can enable our audience, our fans and collectors, to pay us if they want to, can't we?

There are already writers with “Donate” or “Support” buttons on their blogs. They produce a lot of content, or a body of work, that is easily accessible and typically for free. No demand is placed on the audience to pay for it, but they are enabled to do so if they think its worth it.
We're also seeing novels, chapbooks and other publications, as well as music in a variety of forms, offered using a “Pay what you feel it is worth” model.
I'm finding this idea more and more attractive – Because I'd like to do this for a living, or at least part of my living. Or at least for beer money. To be able to devote more of the time and energy to writing and the rest of my art, that I end up spending on wage earning (or trying to at least).

So what's it worth to you?
Nothing? Cool. Keep reading. I'm slowly stealing your soul and corrupting your heart the more of my ideas you entertain, so it's all good. Seriously, it is all good.
You'll buy my book once I have one? Bring it around for coffee, I'll sign it.
Not a lot, but sometimes you'd pay for reading me? Awesome, thanks.
You want to be my sugar mama, support me financially and * ahem * otherwise, all for keeping up my writing? Please email at least three clear photos that aren't extreme close ups, and show you clearly in good lighting from different angles, and a list of references.
I'm being flippant here, but that is (minus the creepy uberfan sugar mama AKA Kathy Bates in Misery psycho-fan) the gist of the enabling I'm talking about.

This isn't something I'm going to implement now. Most of you don't know me, and I'm not producing content at a rate that is really befitting suggesting recompense for it. For me, now is not the time to roll this out – Just the time to start thinking about it. Mapping out how I'd like to try putting it to work.
As a writer, it's pretty easy to map.
As a blacksmith, and artist metalsmith? Not so much.
Tangible, physical, art is hard to transition into the virtual realm – Those physical materials cannot be emailed. How can I, how can my fellows, as a materials artist work with what Amanda Palmer dubs “Virtual Crowdsurfing”? That's trickier. I have several ideas, some of which I'm going to keep to myself for awhile. But, among those ideas is one of knowledge and experience sharing.
There are a lot of people who are not, and don't want to be, artists who remain intensely interested in the processes of art. There are those who want to learn about an art other than their own. Still others want to learn how to do a type of art. As artists, we can be educators about our art. Coming from the blacksmithing world, most blacksmiths are also teachers or at least have taught occasionally. I think, as with other forms of art, we aren't limited strictly to that art, in what we can teach. You can teach a great deal with art.
Couldn't a metal artist (or a wood worker, fabric artist, glass worker, etc. etc.) put out “process content”, demonstrations, tutorials, videos of the art being made (which opens up possibilities of cross-media video art), in a public fashion, and stick a donations button on their website/blog? You could take it out of the virtual world as well: A free public demo with a tip-jar set out. If I show up at an event, and forge an iron hat, won't there be someone to drop money in it? I'd like to think so.
I think this cross over into the really-real world is extremely necessary for building a fan base, and one that is rich with the actual human touch. Musicians have this made, because live shows are damn near guaranteed – They will happen, they have to. Writers can do readings, or perform poetry. Other artists have to innovate in how they reach their audience, if they want to try out the “virtual crowdsurfing” thing. Without the fan base, the people to catch you when you dive off, you'll get nowhere. (Yeah, I'm riffing on AFP here. She's right on, see my last entry and go check out her blog.)

This is an area, a realm of possibility, that I am truly excited about and actively exploring. Woe unto my other projects, I've found something else time consuming.

Some models/ideas of “virtual crowd surfing” as a writer that I think support my own:

Nathan Tyree is hard at work on a novel project titled “Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski Fistfight in Hell”, and has auctioned a fairly prominent role as a character in his novel via eBay. The move, apparently, has generated him some measure of buzz in addition to the immediate monetary advantage. Also apparently a burned thumb.

Jeremy C. Shipp is selling subscriptions to his short story writing as Bizarro Bytes,
He offers multiple levels of subscription, for those wanting to offer further support, and has some interesting incentives for those who do.

Stephen Elliot, for his memoir
The Adderall Diaries, used advance copies originally destined for media outlets to create a “lending library” for fans,
The only requirement was that the copy had to be forwarded to the next person on the list once read. His thoughts on the idea are pretty interesting. The idea has a lot of merit. Just another example of working the crowd in new and innovative ways. He's also supporting the book with a tour and getting out there, another essential element.

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