Monday, January 4, 2010

Monetizing yourself

[image: a morning glory in a local garden, unrelated to the subject today, perhaps]
I like to observe "hits" on the blog, so I have Statcounter up along the side. Today around noon it topped 10,000. That's individual times people logged on, that's all, not how long they stayed. Still, it tickled me.

Every time I get on to write a new post, I am given the choice to go bigger, to "monetize" the blog. A new word? No. Merriam-Webster tells me it appeared around 1879, and can mean -
3 : to utilize (something of value) as a source of profit

There's a lot of that around, isn't there? Times being harder, many people are trying to make money doing things they used to do for fun, to sell their arts and crafts on websites like etsy. I shopped for Christmas in the gymnasium at our community rec center, and bought two hand-dyed silk shirts and a glass-bead necklace of Mittens and snowmen, which my mother-in-law loved. All were priced so that the artist probably didn't make minimum wage for her labor. It made me kind of sad. It appears again and again, the hopefulness of the talented that somehow you can make a living at art. But almost no one does. I wish I could talk to aspiring young artists and explain, first you figure out what to make a living at, something that doesn't sap your creative energy or demand overtime. Figure out how to live on very little, decide what will be enough for you. Then use your spare time to throw yourself into your art. Think of your art as your gift to the world, not your passport to wealth.

According to Sunday's NY Times, the young people entering college are figuring out, some of them anyway, that they will eventually need to make a living. They want useful majors. I used to hate that crass commercialism when I was an idealistic young teacher, willing to work for not very much to do something I loved. Now I see it as enviably realistic.

There's always a Zen story back in my mind somewhere. This one appears often, about the old Chinese Zen master Hykujo whose students try to get him to retire. You can read the short anecdote here. I have come to realize that this aphorism is not an abstraction about How We Should Live. As the Great Recession grips in, with the real unemployment rate at over 17%, according to some analysts, a lot of people are starting to understand what our simpler ancestors never doubted: "No work, no food."

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