Thursday, June 25, 2009

"And though scary is exciting, nice is different from good"

I've mentioned before about Cat Valente writing a serial novel online to pay her bills. And it looks like Tim Pratt is going to be doing something similar. Amanda Palmer's rent isn't being paid by her record label, it's being paid by her fans. And Thea Gilmore is looking for angels to help her make music.

None of them are looking for charity. They just want to get paid for working.

What? Being a writer or a rock star doesn't sound like work? Okay. Try this: Write a song, music and lyrics, please. You can even choose the instrument. Now go perform it in public. In front of strangers. Or this: write a short story, 2500-4500 words. With a beginning, middle, and end, character development and plot. Then give it to people you don't know, and ask them to tell you what they think of it. That's just one song, one story. Think about making an album, writing a novel.

Just because something is creative, doesn't mean it's not work. Just because something seems like a nice way to make a living, doesn't mean it's a good way, or an easy one.

And I wonder if we're returning, at least partially, to the age of patronage, where fans support artists directly. As someone just starting out as a writer, and thinking about how long it might take to establish myself, and knowing that even having books on shelves, like Cat Valente and Tim Pratt do, doesn't mean security, I wonder if that might not be a good thing.


  1. I have been saying for years that I wish we would go back to the patronage model; it had some degree of insecurity to it, and there was the occasional case of the artist being leaned on flatter their patron's ego, but those are the biggest problems I can think of--as compared tobut the current model, which is exceedingly cruel to new artists, and is shackled deeply to popular trends and marketing-based thought processes--"what we think will sell" is far more important than "what is good". And with social media becoming so prevalent, the pressure would be off a small number of people to provide a large number of money--people could give their favorite author the cost of a book via PayPal, or maybe a bit more if they're feeling flush. Eventually, I think talented people with a little savvy could find their way to a situation like Amanda Palmer's. Now if only we could both figure out a way to put undiscovered (and often introverted) artists on the map without needing a major marketing push...

  2. "I wonder if we're returning, at least partially, to the age of patronage."
    Absolutely, along with the many other traditional things people are returning to now, in politics and religion. Turns out the Middle Ages were actually an equilibrium point...

  3. The thing I find really intriguing, is that none of these people are changing the kind of art they make. They're just saying, this is what I do, please help me do it.