The Dangers of Monetizing Creativity

Photo of Van Gogh's self-portrait by Alina Grubnyak.

When you’re a broke-ass-art-person, there are about a million podcasts and blogs and online courses encouraging you to create podcasts and blogs and online courses to help monetize your creative process by sharing it with other artists who, in turn, will create more podcasts and blogs and online courses.

As a career-long writer, I’ve been down this diverting wormhole more than a few times. Every time my industry was “disrupted” or I self-disrupted, I would start selling tours of the rag and bone shop of my expertise. I wrote ebooks, made podcasts, consulted. It worked, until it didn’t, and I’ve come to the personal conclusion that this kind of crap has derailed more than a few artists trying to turn a buck in the “creative economy.”

Remember when we produced writing and art of substance instead of merely making “content?” If content is still king, art needs to be the court jester that tells him he’s full of sh–.

I once received eight emails from an “artist” hawking an online “creative entrepreneur” marketing class. After the second email in an hour, I concluded that the spammer in question was both a shitty marketer and artist.

But what about the skill set we’ve developed? The bullshit corporate skills acquired in newsrooms and boardrooms? What of these skills that weaponized my talent until I became both an overqualified but underwhelming part of the very systems I once sought to destroy?

Like any Frankenstein monster, I suppose I’ll turn on my creators and destroy the systems that created me. Maybe this isn’t a popular opinion, but if I were seeking popularity I’d be more famous by now and not ranting into the void of print and pixels.

Because I’m done shaming the starving artist, the romantics, the ones we tell that they just have to get their work out there and pray they get the right algorithmic alchemy going so the gates to the middle class open wide. Really, at this point, for me the only reason to keep the aspidistra flying is for target practice.

Don’t get the reference? Keep the Aspidistra Flying is a book by George Orwell. ’Nuff said, right? Will we ever listen to him? Maybe if he had a podcast and blog and online course, we’d pay attention, but I dare say we can learn more—and teach more—through art.

This version was originally published in the Bohemian. An expanded written and audio version of this post is here.

By Daedalus Howell

Daedalus Howell is the writer-director of the films Pill Head (on Amazon) and the upcoming Wolf Story. He is the author, most recently, of the novel "Quantum Deadline" and editor of The North Bay Bohemian and The Pacific Sun. Learn how he went from small-town newspaperman to a feature film director here.

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