Thursday, July 31, 2014

Creativity Online: The Internet Supports the Very Big and Very Small

I've been thinking a lot about writing and the internet lately. Here are a few opening thoughts.

The internet provides the means for creative individuals and groups who are either very big (celebrities) or very small (me) to do pretty well. What it's lousy at is providing the means to make a living. I don't know that this is a problem, per se, but it is interesting.

My band just got their kickstarter funded. Hooray! We didn't really need that much money, just a few thousand dollars that none of us could afford to front ourselves. We've been playing together for years now, in various ways, and have a lot of good friends and fans who like our music. We asked, they (perhaps you!) donated, and we are grateful. That said, making a living playing music would be very difficult. It's possible for us to get 150 to contribute, not 1500, or 15,000.

I'm a writer and I make a little money on the side through my writing. I work very hard at it, but my day job is to be a history professor, and without that support, making a living writing would be very challenging.

I spend a lot of time watching writers on Twitter. In fact, for writers, Twitter is packed with rich conversations, networking, sharing ideas and story tips, and all sorts of other great community activities. I frequently think about how hard it must be for people stuck in the mid-range. Writing full time, but not yet at the big enough level to command a steady salary or full-time gig. Freelancing is hard. You have to spend at LEAST as much time hustling for writing gigs as you do writing. Sometimes I ponder what it would be like to make the leap to full time, and I tell myself, not yet, not now, perhaps not ever.

I think there's something structural about the world of internet writing and crowd-funding for creative projects that it is very, very, good for the local band and the part-timer. It's also great for the giants who can use their celebrity to communicate and direct attention on products to buy, shows to attend, articles to read, or even causes to support. In between, things get difficult.

This worries me, as I want artists to be able to make a reasonable living producing their art. I want people to feel like they can dedicate themselves to writing and put food on the table, even if they don't go viral or have a NYT bestseller.

In the meantime, I'm having a really good writing week. Pitches have been accepted, drafts are on their way to editors, I finished my copyedits for my academic book, and I'm getting excited about teaching again. In the meantime, I'm now prepping to make a CD with my band.

Thank you, O Internet, for supporting my work. 

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