Invisible Work

A strange thing is happening in our post-modern, electronically connected culture.  Strange, but not simple.  More and more, people seem to think they should get maximum return for very little investment–or, ideally, none at all.

Nowhere is this attitude of entitlement more obvious than in people’s consumption of art, including books, music and movies.  Many people don’t want to pay for things like these until they’ve already tried them and liked them.  Then and only then, they’re willing to pay, as if paying an artist for his or her work were like a tip in a restaurant instead of deserved payment for labor and time.

I can’t think of another area in which large numbers of people would find it acceptable not to pay for services rendered.  Some people would refuse to tip in a restaurant if the service was poor, but they wouldn’t just walk out without paying for their meal.  Most people wouldn’t consider pulling out of a gas station with a full tank without paying.  I’ve never heard of someone refusing to pay a barber, even if they really didn’t think the haircut they just got was the best they’d ever had.

But, in the case of creative work, and its products, too many people in our culture think they deserve the product of a writer’s, musician’s, or artist’s labor for free–even when they freely admit, “I could never do something like that.”

I’m an author.  I’ve published three novels, and I’m working on a fourth.  It’s my profession; it’s not a hobby.  It’s fun, but it’s also work.  And, as many people have told me, it’s work that a lot of people can’t do–even if they’d like to.   But when it comes to many people’s willingness to pay for it, it might as well be invisible work.

You wouldn’t go into a shoe store and expect the shop owner to let you just take a pair of shoes out of the store, wear them around for a month or so, and then pay for them if they liked the fit, would you?

Well, I don’t expect someone to download an ebook of my novels Annah and Dark Road to Paradise from some pirate website, read them for free and only go to Amazon and pay for them if they thought they were good.

The work an author, musician or artist puts into a product is as worthy of compensation as that done by any other worker.  If you choose to read, listen, or watch, you have to realize that the work that went into producing what you’re consuming is not invisible–the evidence of it is in your ears, on the screen, on the page.

Just like the words on this page, which in this case I’ve written expecting only to be paid by one means:

This time, pay attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Blink of My Mind’s Eye: Persistence and Vision

I don’t intend to belabor the point–hence the eye-blink of the title–but it occurs to me there’s a great deal of talk these days about success–by which most people tend to mean ‘making money’– and how one goes about being ‘successful.’  I would say that, in my opinion, there’s more than one measure of success, and that financial profit, while a nice thing, isn’t even the most important definition of that term.

In 2013, at the age of 42, I published my first novel–a goal I’d dreamed of, and worked toward, since I was around four years of age–roughly the time I realized that ‘an author’ was something real people in the real world could be, and were.

Writing, and being published, became my vision–the utmost goal or dream in my mind.  I had a little taste of my goal at the age of twelve, when my sci-fi short story, “The Computer Conspiracy”, was published in Scholastic magazine, to the tune of a $25 check paid to that story’s young author, yours truly.

It wasn’t until thirty years later that my science-fiction romance novel Annah would earn me a contract with PDMI Publishing, LLC, who also published my vampire novel Dark Road to Paradise, and with whom I currently have several other literary irons in the fire, including sequels to both of the aforementioned books.

In those thirty years, I did other things–I taught, I earned a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, and I worked in a number of customer service call centers.  But I never lost sight of the vision of being an author; never ceased in the persistence of working toward that goal.

And I did get there.  Now, I’m not a household name or someone whose books have, as of yet, been adapted for the big or small screen–but every step along the journey is a momentous and a joyous one.  And i write this not to say, ‘hey, look at me, look at everything I’ve done’, but to say, ‘I’ve done this–and if you have a dream, you can do it too.’

I tend to think that the world we live in today discourages dreams; discourages visions, and instead tends to prod people toward and praise people for merely getting by.  Get an education, our society says, not to broaden your mind, but so you can earn a paycheck.  Don’t aspire to big dreams–keep a fallback plan in your pocket, and plan on falling back.  That’s what everyone does, isn’t it?

Not everyone.  I don’t believe people are given goals and visions by accident–and I believe that if you have one, you can achieve it–and you should.  Keep your vision in your mind and persist in the hard work it takes–and the time it takes–to achieve it.  It may not be easy–in fact, I can pretty much guarantee from decades of my own long road to getting published that it won’t be–but once you get there, it will be worth it.  And once you’re there, achieving the next goal, the next dream, will be that much easier.

We live in a world where pessimism is too often seen as ‘realism’, and that’s an environment in which visions and dreams are hard to sustain.  So–believe you can.  But don’t just believe it–put work behind your belief, every day, and don’t stop.

And pretty soon, with persistence and vision on your side, you’ll look at the thing you never thought you’d achieve, and wonder how you ever doubted you could.

That’s all I wanted to say.  Thanks for listening.  Email me at claygil1971@yahoo.com if you want to talk.  And remember–if you can dream it, you can do it.barricade1