My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Serious for a Moment: A Humble Reminder About Supporting Artists

At the moment of this writing, recent rash of neon green Facebook icons has become a ubiquitous sight. These icons are intended to raise the awareness of the company, Rhythm and Hues, that did the visual effects for Life of Pi, which won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Rhythm and Hues just filed chapter eleven and laid off lots of workers due in large part to the business model of Hollywood. The fact that an FX company can win an academy award at the same time it's going out of business has rung out like a klaxon of warning to other artists. They know that it's a complicated subject and that unless movie goers want to pay $20.00 a ticket, there won't just be "raises all around," but they also know that when people are coming to see their art, but they are out of a job while the studios and theaters are doing better than ever, something has gone very, very wrong.

Will design Oscar award winning FX for food.
[And no, the solution isn't to pirate the movie. Dill-holes claiming they are stealing to fight the power is a rationalization people make when they want to feel better about being thieves (and it's as old and unoriginal a justification as theft itself).  When you steal a dollar from a billionaire and a guy living from paycheck to paycheck at the same time, guess which is the one you actually screw over?]

Artists are well aware that they are taken advantage of and sometimes outright exploited by the industries that make money from their efforts. The problem is their irritating and persistent need to eat, have shelter and health care, and sometimes buy clothing means that they tend to have little choice. In the past it was these industries that provided a service to the artist in the way of distribution, publicity, and legal protection, but now it is viewed as the other way around--the artist is providing the service to an industry that really only serves itself. Movies, recording, and yes...even publishing have all had the same shift.  The internet has presented artists of all types with some options for exposure, but it turns out that making a living is still pretty tough.  So a lot of artists go get "real" jobs and a lot of consumers wonder why they can't find any art or entertainment that really takes a chance.

What does this have to do with me? What does this have to do with you?

Well, what happens to these artists is really up to you, the consumer of the art.

If you support the artist, (and that might actually mean something a little more than a few kind words) you not only keep someone working on their art instead of in a cubicle (and then you get to enjoy what they create), but you also give EVERY ARTIST leverage when dealing with the industries that would exploit them. If big industries like movie studios, recording labels, and publishing houses know that a disgruntled artist can make money without them, they'll have no choice but to treat them better. You can literally change the trends within the industry by supporting independent artists.

You don't have to boycott the big budget mainstream stuff (Lord Knows I'll probably dress up as Hawkeye for Avengers II), but just don't forget the struggling independent artists either. They're the ones that are less likely to charge you "at the door" to see their art, but you still have to support the artist if you want to go on seeing it.

Now I know I'm no Academy Award winner. The best I can hope for is that I'm not enraging some inter-dimensional aliens with how bad my writing is. But, because it's absolutely free to read, the future of Writing About Writing is entirely in your hands. The worst thing you have to endure is that every couple of months, I'll make a post like this one telling people how they can help.
Which of these things happens is up to the readers.

Writing About Writing is the product of hours and hours and hours of effort.  Four and six hours a day are completely normal for me and some days go as long as eight or more.  Even "light" days generally involve an hour or two. So right now W.A.W. is a 35-40 hour a week commitment--or basically a full time job.

However, I make almost no money, as you can see.  A few cents a day punctuated by the occasional good day or small PayPal donation is really as good as it gets. [ETA- A tiny handful of regular donors have upped this to a few dollars a day.] It breaks down to about 20 [$1] cents an hour right now.

"So...not making money right now, sir?"
"Not so much."

Online art in general (writing in particular, and W.A.W. specifically,) are labors of love, and many of us are going to keep doing them even if we never make a penny, but the question of whether it's a sideline hobby or my day job is influenced by the fans and followers of that artist.

Here are some ways you can affect the outcome:

  • Of course, you can directly donate a few dollars.  If W.A.W. (or any other website) has entertained you for hours and hours, I promise I won't complain if you want to slip me the price of a matinee or a paperback once or twice a year.  This is always super, super awesome.  The PayPal account is on the left.  And as you can see a little goes a long way.  The price of a couple of lattes, and I've made 100x a normal day.  
But I know the economy is crap, and not everyone has money to fling at arts and entertainment.  I don't even give the musician at BART my pocket change unless they are off the hook.  (The guy at 24th with the Casio keyboard....no way.) So here are some non-expense-incurring things you can do.
  • Like the blog. Not just an article, but the blog itself. A lot of programs and people judge whether or not they might want to advertise on a blog based on these bellwethers.  If you hit "Home" up in the upper left hand corner, and then gave the blog itself some love (not just this article or another article you like)--maybe a "+1" on Google or a "Like" on Stumbleupon--that stuff really helps. 
  • Of course you could subscribe.  Subscribing to a blog takes thirty seconds--tops.  After that you can hide the blog from your feed (or never read your feed) and go right back to only reading the articles that catch your eye.  But the support will be there.  And anyone trying to decide how cool my blog is will see the number of subscribers as an indicator.
  • Pimp one of your favorite older articles.  If I've written something that you liked in the past, you can't imagine how helpful it is if you give it a "like," a "+1," or especially if you share it on some social media. The Reliquary should be pretty easy to navigate if you're looking for one of my old articles.
  • Generally just sharing/spreading.  I already irritate my friends with how aggressively I self  promote on social media. Most of my friends who haven't "muted/unfollowed" me tune out most of my blog posts. It really helps for people to share a post they like. There's a bar at the bottom of EVERY article that makes sharing super easy. Even if I know you on a social media site, you know other people that I don't. Some of my most successful articles never got the traffic they did because of anything I did, but rather because someone else shared it.  If you see something you like, it's super supportive to its creator to spread and share it.  You don't have to mindlessly signal-boost every article, but just hitting "share" once in a while is one of the most supportive things you can possibly do.  
  • Generally Liking, +1ing, Thumb Uping, Etc....  Search engines have super complicated algorithms these days. The times of keyword rich text getting hits are already in the rear-view mirror.  One of the ways a search engine decides where to put something is by the number of social media badges through which it has been given positive feedback.  My Prometheus article shows up on the first page of a "Prometheus poorly written" search, and that has brought me hundreds of new readers. I have badges you can use to "Like" and "+1" my articles all over. Just go nuts!
  • Stumbleupon "Likes."  Stumbleupon is great because it puts my articles in front of complete strangers who have listed "writing" as an interest.  Every time I get a "Like" on Stumbleupon it shows that page to a few people.  If none of them like it, it falls off the queue.  If one of them gives it a "thumb up/like," Stumbleupon shows it to a few more people.  If one of THEM likes it, it keeps going.  It's absolutely great for exposure, so there's almost no social media that is more useful for you to use if you want to support W.A.W.  Every SINGLE post in my top ten, save one (Prometheus), is there because it took off on Stumbleupon.  A like on S.U. is uber.
  • Turn off your adblocker.  I make money through ads.  Which makes me a total commercial sellout, I guess, but I'll feel worse about that when a month's pay can buy me a meal that isn't from IHOP.   And as paltry as that money is, it's about three times the money I make from donations.  95% of the people who come to W.A.W. don't see the ads.  They get here from Stumbleupon (which blocks ads) or they have Firefox or Chrome (which have great adblocker plugins).  And you bet your ass that I don't even get the tiny trickle from pageviews when those pageviews come from places that can't see the ads.  So it can be amazingly helpful to my "trickle" income just to turn your adblocker off--JUST FOR THE "chrisbrecheen.blogspot" domain.  (It will still be on for the rest of the web.)  You don't even have to ever click an ad for this to help.  Further, it's all through Google, so the ads won't be invasive or pop ups or anything.  And who knows...maybe you see something you're interested in.  The ads are based on what I write, so generally they tend to be topical and interesting. 
  • But please do NOT just click the ads.  Caveat to the last point: please don't just click those ads. I'm really asking you JUST to turn off the adblock. Adsense keeps close tabs on my numbers and if someone is just blind clicking to "help" me, they can mess those numbers up enough that it hurts me. Click an ad if you see something you would click an ad for anywhere else on the net. Otherwise, please believe me that it's enough just that you turned off the blocker.
Any of these steps is hugely helpful, and will influence the future of Writing About Writing, and to a lesser degree the future of art and artists. Basically....

Thank you all so much for all your support so far.  I prefer to have a post like this once every couple of months, laying out how you can support me, than to repeat it like a broken record with every article in a way that fades into the background noise. I know it can be a little tiresome, so I thank you for your patience and any support you may give.


  1. Weirdly, the big top facebook recommend button didn't work for me - it lead to trying to recommend a shortcut that facebook thinks is spammy. The lower tiny one (under "posted by Chris Brecheen") worked ok though. Just FYI.

    1. I had the same thing happen (I think) as well. Maybe that bar o' social media share buttons is less awesome than it looks....

  2. Everyone wants free entertainment. They only care when a place that's doing good work finally makes so little that it goes under.