By Guest Author
Posted October 2, 2012
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by Aelius Blythe
The wild and transient pulse of creation beats here.
Here in the digital spaces, everyone creates. Here in the digital spaces, everyone is a writer, a photographer, a journalist, an artist. Here in the digital spaces, everyone can shout and be shouted down. And as intoxicating as Here is, this rough and tumble mess that is so… internet begs the question: why does anyone create here at all?
Simple. It’s fun.
But what’s fun isn’t always profitable. And what fills your heart doesn’t always fill your wallet. Choosing this new world means leaving behind the support of the old, and lurking fears wonder if poverty is the price of creation.
Maybe it is.
Most of the unorthodox writers I know accept this price. We trade support away for freedom. We trade comfort away for creative control. We trade a paved road away for a machete to cut our way through the wilds.
It’s okay because it’s fun.
But not everyone thinks there needs to be a trade-off. While we accept certain sacrifices and challenges for the sake of our work, others are busy not accepting that there need to be sacrifices and challenges — or maybe not so many. Others are busy not accepting that digital arts need to go without support. Others are busy not accepting that the path of independent creators needs to be hard and lonely. While we, machetes in hand, hack through the new, pathless wilds, others are running ahead to make the wilds more hospitable.
The Flattr team make up some of these others.
Flattr is a micro-payment system for free stuff. A “Like” button with a few cents attached.
It’s just a few cents.
Here and there.
Maybe a dollar.
But for myself, as a small time newbie, micro is about as much as I can manage. After all, when you’re a small time newbie, not too many people are opening doors for you. And when support is hard to come by, accepting the spare change of a few supporters means more than waiting for a big check.
Of course, creativity has always found some way to support itself, and so too in the internet age. Donations and ad revenue and sales have lined the pockets of many creators. But in the internet’s chaotic mess, there’s a bottleneck at the most popular doors to success and not everyone gets through. And while donations and ad revenue and sales find their way to a few talented creators, Flattr — and other new models of support — opens the door to a few more.
Some people look with dread on the masses of creation online: the meme fields, the cat forests, the troll caves. Some people shake their heads at the folly of trying to find a new path through these wilds. Sometimes even we independent creatives roll our eyes at the crazy technologists that think they can change things for us. And maybe it is crazy to think this chaos can be made any easier. Maybe it is better to look at the sacrifices and challenges and accept them, rather than hack through them.
But I look at the book in my hands.
It’s a POD collection of blog-posted fiction. Not something everyone would be ecstatic about. The only professional thing about it is the cover. But this is my work and, goddammit I am proud of it!
I don’t have experience with many crowd funding methods. Here on the internet, one size doesn’t fit all. One size fits some. Maybe Kickstarter gives some writers covers and physical books. Maybe PayPal buttons are some artists’ bread and butter.
Maybe we don’t need a new model.
Maybe some people look at all the paths through the mess of creation here and think the new ones just add to the chaos. Maybe some look at the growing, pulsing mass of creation and think it is too much, too chaotic, too uncertain.
I look at the book in my hands.
I look at the book I can hold in my hands, the pages I can flip, the ink-on-tree pulp, the cover that I could never have produced myself. I look at what I — just one voice shouting in the forest of words Here — hold: my book, my work, a tangible something, that grew out of a few cents here and there, maybe a dollar. I look at it and I’m happy for a few cents. I look at it and I’m happy for the people who think things can be different, that this new world, this chaotic, uncertain path doesn’t need to be so scary and lonely.
A shiny new cover and printed pages aren’t success, but they are rest stops on the way. These wilds are tough, we need stops along the way. We need all the support we can get.
Even if it’s just a few cents.
Aelius Blythe is a writer, digital rights activist, and blogger at CheapassFiction.com.
All content released under a Creative Commons license unless otherwise noted.