Voluntary Art

An argument on doing work for free.

Pinot’s Palette | Source

An argument on doing work for free.

Author’s Note: This is an extension to a previous post, How to Blog.

If you ask most artists, writers and other creators, they will stress the importance of not doing work for free, particularly for others. They will tell you not to do internships for free, and they will tell you not to freelance for free, don’t do favors for free. They say it’s important to value your time and your effort. Or more chiefly — value yourself as a creator.

These are professionals that I’m talking about. People who make their livelihoods with their work. But there are many who multi-task — who have a ‘normal job’ while moonlighting as an artist. The advice most often given to these kind of people is that they should monetize their work, too.

But what that’s the wrong answer? What if we instead viewed our work in an entirely different light?

Motivation

A few years back, when I was volunteering at my local music festival, we had a group meeting, and one of the volunteer coordinators said something that I still think about to this day:

If they paid me, I’d have to be here.

When a price tag is put on something, it becomes obligatory. It has to meet certain criteria, and is subsequently no longer entirely of our own. It is a mistake to think of what you produce solely from monetary value, and you shouldn’t be creating in the first place if that’s your mindset from the get go.

Often times, too, it’s more of an attempt to squeeze blood from a stone. Also awhile back, I ran an independent music review website, and made only a few dollars from AdSense in the span of months and dozens of articles.

I decided to migrate over to Medium, instead. And further more, open my writing to Creative Commons. From the beginning I’ve allowed any and all of my work to be used by others freely, so long as they attribute and follow the same guidelines.

I encourage all writers to do the same, in fact. The internet is over-saturated with creative work, and often times it’s fiercely held by an amateur creator’s attempt at copyright. I can understand this decision, and respect it, but there is an alternative.

When a writer loosens her grip on her work, allowing other’s to use it, or peek inside it’s process, she’s trading potentially small earnings for something much grander.

It allows for an increase of exposure and collaboration, to be able to gain a sense of community. It also allows for the chance for work to be expanded — and improved — upon. As Paul Valery is often quoted with the following:

A poem is never finished, only abandoned.

My personal philosophy is that this can be applied to any endeavor, from programming to a coloured canvas. An artist should seek out revisions, not just from his close friends, but from complete strangers as well. That is one of many forgotten values of the internet. There are entire virtual studios and galleries silently waiting to be discovered — and filled.

Thank you for reading!
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