Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Artistry For Free?

By Usiku

Core concepts initially appeared as comments on Nick Daw’s Writing Blog.

Life would be a pervasive shade of grayscale without creative expression. Artistry has extensive and intrinsic value; however, this understanding has been lost when it comes to certain forms of written art.

The responsibility lies mainly with writers of poetry, short stories and articles. I suspect part of the problem is too many of us view our creativity as sideline contributions. Thus, we give too much talent away when offered a chance to participate in the publishing game and then expect to be fairly compensated when we turn pro. How many novels are published for free? How many screenplays are flooding the free market? How many tailors give away clothes? How many paintings are simply handed over? How many wood carvers whittle away just because someone wants their creation?

Artists should be paid. Venues that do not pay writers have every right not to. Writers who are not hobbyists should carefully weigh the long-term benefit of exposure and perceived prestige of a publication against their creative output’s ability to create input for their own bank book. The minute we give our writing away and it appears in a publisher’s showroom, the value plummets like a new car driven around the corner. Yet, our continued willingness to give our property and rights away has created a feeding frenzy on one end of the talent pool by non-paying markets while at the other end media machines pick and choose. Who can live off exposure? Exposure by itself is far less sustaining than love which even at its best, love hardly puts food on the table.

In my infancy and ignorance, yes, I have given foolishly. Granted, not everyone wants to get paid or seeks satisfaction the same way. For those of us who want to earn a living using our talents, we must stop undervaluing our blessings in any form and any length. The beauty and value of art are not limited to our age, experience, training, credits, goals, culture, form, formulas, panels of judges or editors, etc. A beauty of art is that it transcends every man-made constriction, even the artist, because it flows from a spiritual gift which is forever equal in all respects to any other manifestation of the spirit. A value of art is its renewable ability to connect with us in pure places and transfer meaning across the space between lives. The only real difference in art is, not everything is for everyone; but, let’s let this be decided individually, freely.

Usiku (oo-SEE-koo) is inspired by the connection between spirituality and the natural world. His book of literary poetry, prose and short stories, Eloquence: Rhythm & Renaissance can be found at


WritingHermit said...

I agree completely. There is a perception that creativity is a pie-in-the-sky kind of thing that really does not require -- or merit -- money. Worse, some writers are made to feel that they are crass or somehow "not real writers" if they run their writing like a business. In today's world, though, that is the only way to go. Creativity is a concrete and necessary force in the world and those who supply it have a right to receive fair compensation for it. Without creativity, the world would wither.

Jim Murdoch said...

My wife has an expression she uses quite a lot: what the market will bear.

Now I've got a box full of magazines where my poetry has appeared where all I ever got by way of payment was a free copy of the issue in which I appeared or, at best, a back issue or two. And that's fine and good when you realise what it's costing the publisher to bring out the magazine and they're probably doing the whole thing out of their bedroom.

The problem comes when you move up a rung or two on the ladder. There are no fewer people clammering after the few places there are and there's always someone willing to sell their soul for less than you think yours is worth; it's a buyer's market.

The answer quite simply is to self-publish. The problem there is the stigma attached to doing that. Well, not that long ago, to be born out of wedlock was something to be deeply ashamed of but who bats an eye these days? It's just unfortunate that we're on the cusp of a wave at the moment but it will resolve itself.

And maybe then, once the slush piles start to dry up, the publishers will have more time to actually read the things people are submitting to them and it won't take thirty or forty goes to get discovered.

Yeah right.