Paid

I’m going to say something, and it is astounding to me that this is controversial: creative people should be paid for their work.

Writers. Artists. Speakers. Bloggers. Film makers. Sculptors. Musicians. Graphic designers. Actors. Directors. Set designers. Textile artists. Landscapers. All of them.

I’ve heard the most assinine reasons given for why these people should NOT be paid. Most of the time it’s “exposure!” Translation: everyone will see your work here and will want to hire you for other work! Which is ridiculous, because no other industry works like that. Imagine seeing these ads …

“Design a database for one of our clients and you’ll be added to our list of database developers. Our website sees tons of traffic, and they will all see your name! EXPOSURE!”

“Teach in our school for a semester and parents will be clamoring for their school to hire you for real! EXPOSURE!”

“Work for free and we’ll provide you a reference”

“Work for free and our unique platform will get your name out there”

“WORK. FOR. FREE.”

You hear that last one? That’s what I hear in every one of those “exposure!” offers. The reason they can get away with it is twofold: 1) creative people undervalue their work, and 2) so many others are doing it, the big guns can get away with it. It seems to be either “We’re so big we shouldn’t have to pay, bc exposure” or “We’re so small we can’t pay, but we’re PASSIONATE about it.” Oprah did it. The TED talks do it. (Oh, but you get to see all the other TED talks! Bitch please. Speakers don’t get into public speakings so they can watch other people speak.) The Huffington Post does it. I see it everywhere.

I have never heard any creative person say they got their start by doing work for free, and cashed in on all the exposure. It probably happens to a very, very small minority, but it is not a probable path to sustainable work. The solution, really, is for creative people to stop undervaluing their work, and to stop providing content for free. Then, when the leeches who sustain themselves on the unpaid work of other people shrivel up and fold, we’ll be left with the ones who can pay.

I’ve heard the argument that creative people who put their work out there for free are somehow more “pure” than people who make money with their art. This is horse shit. It’s just a half-assed justification for not paying for someone’s work. There’s no real life correllation whatsoever. So fuck that reasoning, it’s not real.

DIGRESSION #1: YOUR PASSION

There is something to be said for volunteer work for the arts and for working “for free” at your own passion project. Plenty of people do this, and it’s NOT THE SAME THING as a profitable company getting content for free when they could very well pay. If you do something for the joy of it, then cool, have at it. Enjoy yourself. But don’t let a company profit from your work when they ought to be paying for it.

DIGRESSION #2: FAN WORKS

I have recently been on the sidelines while two groups of people railed at each other over Ko-Fi. Long story short: putting a Ko-Fi or a Paypal or some other donate button on their website allows people to essentially “buy a coffee” for someone whose work they enjoy. A number of fan fiction writers and fan artists include one on their website. I was quite pleased with this notion and immediately “bought a coffee” for my favorite fan fiction writer (who can write like a SON OF A BITCH, lemme tell ya.) The Internet then exploded into a herd of rabid monkeys, hollering (among other things) that fan fiction writers and artists shouldn’t make money with their work, was this even legal, who do they think they are getting paid when so many other writers don’t get paid, fan fiction isn’t about money, etc. All of which are COMPLETE CRAP REASONS to prevent another person from putting a “tip jar” on their personal website.

Personally, I think it would be lovely if fan fiction writers and artists were able to make money with their work, because it is still creative work, still provides value to someone (the fans and, to some extent, the original creators, because it keeps the original work’s relevance going longer.) Perhaps something along the lines of “fair use,” with a portion going to the original creator, I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer, or a web designer, the actual implementation is beyond me. But the presence of fan-created content is relevant enough, prevalent enough, and frankly, GOOD enough that this warrants consideration. I think it’s time to have that conversation, as a society. The notion that fan writers and artists are somehow morally obligated to NOT accept anything for their work, including a voluntary tip jar, is not only ludicrous but indicative of sour grapes. My own Ko-Fi, by the way, is right here. And these over here are my own fan fictions. It’s kind of like geological strata of my movie obsessions.

So with that in mind, I’d like to encourage you to buy your favorite creative person a coffee. Or introduce creative people to business people who may have a use for their talent. Or review your friend’s book. (Ahem. Like here.) Tell them their work is worth something. And call out the assholes who leech off of them.

 

 

 

 

 

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Circlet Press Retreat

At the beginning of April, I had the great privilege of attending the Circlet Press Writers’ and Editors’ Retreat in Cambridge, MA. It’s three days of talking about writing, editing and publishing Circlet’s brand of stories – erotica with a scifi/fantasy bent, or “erotica for geeks” – with some of my favorite people in the world, in Cecilia Tan’s gorgeous historic Victorian home. Yeah, it’s as awesome as it sounds, and I am grateful to Cecilia for hosting such a great event.

One of the local authors graciously let me crash at her home, much to the consternation of her cats. I used PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. (Hey, I’m from Dallas, we don’t have it; I’m super proud I have figured it out.) I got to hear about the state of the publishing industry both at large and for Circlet in particular, participate in a podcast reading for Nobilis Erotica, have a drink with Vinnie Tesla (fabulous steampunk author, and hot, to boot), and listen to presentations by some of the best minds in the field. The Twitter hashtag was #porncamp. We were very amused with ourselves.

As usual, I came home with my brain bursting at the seams and motivated to write. Stone’s Prayer, which is linked over there to the right, came out of that weekend. Hopefully, much more will, as well.

Getting it Down

I am often asked by friends about my writing process. My response is always the same. When you sit down with the Dreaded White Blank Page, just write. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t even have to be the beginning. Just write. Get your story out. With a crowbar, if necessary. Only when it is all done do I go back and start editing. Until then, the job is simple: add words. Lots of people start to write; be one of the ones who finish!

Motivation

This weekend I was at a lake house in Texarkana, AR. It was lovely. I did extremely little. I talked with my 3 friends who joined me. Except for messaging with a handful of people, I unplugged. I LEFT MY LAPTOP AT HOME. It was rejuvenating.

On the way there and back, I listened to Felicia Day’s book, “You’re Never Weird on the Internet.” It is inspiring. I am now ready to Get Excited and Make Things, otherwise known as writing and crafting. It’s a welcome feeling, long missed.

And my house is clean. I like this place. I think I’ll stay.

Ask

I’ve published a new story. It can be found here: “Ask“. It’s erotica, and I’m not sure if it’s science fiction or fantasy, but it could be either. Sociology fiction? Something like that.

It’s always dicey, fetishizing slavery. It’s difficult to make dubious consent sexy. That’s one reason I kept this one so short. I might one day explore this world a little further, but I kind of like the flash-in-the-pan nature of the story.

Build a Better Population

I was once part of a writing group on Facebook that would discuss various aspects of writing. I should have assumed from the start that this would end poorly, eventually. Alas, in the immortal words of “They Might Be Giants,” I was young and foolish then; I feel old and foolish now. The question posed for debate at one point (which ended my involvement in the group) was, what responsiblity do writers have to try to be inclusive and representative of minority groups such as women, people of color, indigenous cultures, LGBT, etc.? To my immense dismay, the resounding answer according to this particular group was that “political correctness” had no place in the pristine imaginative fields of a writer’s mind. The writer should create their characters as they come to him, without “imposing variations” that do not naturally occur to them at the moment.

Well, that’s horse shit. Stories and characters may seem to come out of nowhere, sometimes appearing in all their entirety, as if the writer is not in control but simply a vessel, a receptor for the creative spirit. But any writer who’s been around the block a few times will tell you, when asked where their stories come from: “my own head.” And a writer’s head is not a pure place, oh my no. It is chock full of the insecurities, prejudices, misjudgments, ideals and fallacies of this strange little human. A writer’s head is full of nonsense and emotion and wild flights of fancy. If it wasn’t, the writer wouldn’t have much to draw from. Frequently it’s full of libido. (Not a bad thing.) It is not a place that should be romanticized, idealized, or protected from criticism and outside influence.

Now let’s look at those “variations.” Society is full of people who, in one way or another, have been treated like crap because one aspect of themselves is different. But the fact is, most people have some aspect of themselves that makes them different; it’s just that it’s something small for each person, unless they happen to possess multiple minority traits, such as a Jewish black woman in a wheelchair. Take a closer look at people, and you’ll see that most of us, in some way, are a minority, as backwards as that sounds. And the fictional world does not reflect this. Half the human population is female, but a much greater chunk of the population in the collective realm of fiction is male. America and the world have significant populations of people of color, but the fictional world is strangely white-washed. Just about everyone has some religious ideas, but when they come up in fiction, they are far more universally generic-Christian than otherwise. LGBT people make up a single digit percentage of the population, but in the fictional world, that decimal place moves at least one point to the left. And let’s not even talk about bisexual erasure or the Kinsey scale. A great many people have some sort of physical or mental disease, handicap or condition, that strangely never seem to afflict fictional characters unless it is the crux of the story.

The reason this is important it two fold. One, if a writer’s aim is for their story to be rooted in reality, their characters have to be as much like people as possible – and the default model human is not white, cis, healthy, prime-aged American male. That’s actually a much rarer model than you would think. People come in varieties, and making a character female or Hispanic or disabled is not “putting a variation upon the base model”, and it’s not catering to the irrational demands of a political feel-good group. It’s just making a human. Humans are variable, and characters should be also. Are all your characters brilliant? Sassy? Badass fighters? Computer illiterate? Have lovely singing voices? No, of course not. And they shouldn’t all have the same body, either.

The other reason to diversify characters is for the sake of representation, which is a GOOD THING. To a normal human who is not a white, cis, healthy, prime-aged American male, it can be disheartening, disappointing, even heartbreaking, to not see someone like themselves in the stories they love. The message is, “People like you don’t belong here.” It’s sad, and it means popular media is missing out on story and characterization opportunities for the sake of appealing to the lowest common denominator. Change up the bodies and cultures of your characters to more closely match that of reality, and you’ll actually appeal to a larger market.

For the record, I have just as much love for the white, cis, healthy, prime-aged American male as I do for any other subsect of human. Tony Stark is … omg … just … seriously, let me catch my breath. And I identify very much with Steve Rogers. But it shouldn’t be the default model for everyone, and there are no more “token” characters than there are “token” people; it’s a straw man argument. The default model should be a human, and the variation factors on top of that – race, sex, background, history, personality, skills, gender identification, bank account, sexual orientation, literary taste, BMI – should vary just as much as they do in real life.

You’ll be a better writer that way.