Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What Are You Worth?

I keep reading and hearing people say that if people can get the book, and hence the writing, for nothing then that is all the book is worth -- nothing. Every time I think about that point of view I keep coming back to: if payment is the only measure of what something is worth no wonder the world is screwed up.

I do believe in a world and a society that is driven by money the only measurement available is money, but is that really valid? Story tellers throughout the ages have wandered from place to place telling their stories, some invented and some told and retold for centuries like Homer. Homer was a blind storyteller and his version of The Illiad and The Odyssey have become immortal and last through the ages. They will probably last for many ages to come. Storytellers and minstrels and bards and wanderers received payment in the form of shelter and food and help and often not even that because the communities where the wanders landed could not afford more than a bite of food and a post by the fire to sleep. Richer towns and wealthy landowners paid more for the wanders' services but did the amount of remuneration mean the rich enjoyed their stories and songs more or that they were more generous? That is the trap I believe we fall into today.

We have come to believe the amount of payment is equivalent to the product, in this case a book. But is it? I've read some truly awful books that cost me far more than I thought they were worth and wonderful, magical books that I would've paid three times the price to read again and again. It's not, in my estimation, the price that defines excellence but the story and the author of that story. If you write because you love writing and want to tell stories why debase that desire by counting coins?

Yes, we all need money to live because that is the way the world works, but are we happier when we have more money, more things, more everything or are we merely following the crowd?

If you write because you must, because telling a story is as necessary as breathing, then write. Demand payment from those that can pay, but be willing to give your work to those that cannot. Paid or free, it is not the coin that defines worth, but the writing itself.

As for me, I look forward to the day when the world no longer runs on money but on community and the worth of art and literature and even ditch digging is determined by its value to the worker, the artist, the writer, and the person. 

That is all. Disperse.