Friday, October 24, 2008

Your Creative Economy

This morning, I woke up to find the Dow Futures down, way below market levels. And sure enough, they are sagging this trading day, which made me want to frame this post in a way that resonates with the creative community and creative souls in the blogosphere.

Personally, this global financial downturn and run-up to the U.S. presidential elections are making me tense. Now I'm not a fatalist. Nor do I plan to start buying massive quantities of food in bulk and raise chickens in my yard (but yea for those who do). I understand that the Dow is not a good indicator of what's really going on in credit markets or oil futures, and that all of this is cyclical (so no lectures on the economy, please).

I want to pose some questions to you to see how this public turmoil is affecting your private space. The goal is to start a dialogue. Feel free to address one or all of these questions at any time, or add your own to the mix.

  1. As a creative entity, how is the recent economic downturn affecting how you create?
  2. Has the downturn affected how you write and what you write about?
  3. Are you making choices on how you spend your money (new poetry books vs. paying bills)?
  4. Has the downturn changed how you enter contests, or look for grants and sources of funding?
  5. Has the downturn changed how you submit poems/manuscripts for publication, given the cost of postage and reading fees?
  6. Has the current state of your state led to opportunities? Have you found a silver lining?

The unrest in the U.S. weighs on my mind, and is hitting my pocketbook* in small ways. It makes a difference how often I go to Starbucks during the week to write. Do I spend that money on myself or spend it on gas for the car? It affects how many books I buy and what subscriptions to journals and reviews I maintain. Now more than ever, I take advantage of online submission software rather than mailing. As for my writing, I think this distress has made it harder for me to focus on the art. I'm not one to shut the world out to create, yet on some level all of this is taking up space in my brain.

So I'm curious. Is your creative economy up or down?

*I carry a purse. Pocketbook is just an expression. *smile*

19 comments:

~ said...

Hi J--

Good questions!

As a creative entity, how is the recent economic downturn affecting how you create?

***No, I still go about it the same way.

Has the downturn affected how you write and what you write about?

***A little. I recently started a poem with a financial planner in it, so I'm stretching on to new ideas there. ;-) Though in the 1990's when tech stocks were soaring including on local company named Microsoft, I wrote a poem called "How Can I Be Happy If I Don't Own Microsoft Stock?" So I think because I can get tuned into the news, what is relevant in American life/culture can end up in my poems.

*

Are you making choices on how you spend your money (new poetry books vs. paying bills)?
***Yes. Poetry books always come before bills. ;-)

Actually, the stuff that's getting dropped from my life is basically well, how should I put it, the cr*p. I'm still participating in the arts--going to plays, buying poetry books, buying art--but I'm less likely to buy that cute set of matching retro kitchen towels or some fun cheapy Halloween decoration; I'm avoiding anything I *really* do not need. I rarely buy coffee at a coffee store and if I know I'm going to be out, I bring my own lunch or a snack.

Has the downturn changed how you enter contests, or look for grants and sources of funding?
***Not yet. But I've been wishing for some grants and money, so we may be headed there! ;-)

*

Has the downturn changed how you submit poems/manuscripts for publication, given the cost of postage and reading fees?
***Somewhat. I have started to find more online submissions - though to be honest, much of that is just because I've been so bad at submitting, it's seemed easier.

Also, if I think a certain contest feels "rigged" or wouldn't choose my work, I'm less likely to enter it than to try and think the best--I save a little cash that way.

*

Has the current state of your state led to opportunities? Have you found a silver lining?
***I can't think of any new opportunities for me.

However, the craziness of this economy has been a great reminder of what's important and what I actually need to survive. It's been a way to realize the importance of my family, health, and the satisfaction I receive from writing (not publishing, but just writing).

I think the silver lining is we get to simplify our lives (whether we want to or not!) and maybe get back to some things we've forgotten about or just haven't had time for.

Library usage has gone up and I think that's fantastic. There's a silver lining.

The silver lining is extra creativeness we need in these times to get by, to save money, to find joy in the little or simple things. That's been my silver lining, just saying, okay when all the glitz and extras are taken away, do I find happiness in my own life? It's an important question to me, so I've actually felt okay and sometimes even (dare I say it) hopeful that we'll get through this and maybe with a better understanding of what we each hold dear in our lives.


*

Also, I hope to be raising chickens! Though I had planned to do that before the economy took a downturn, I just wanted some country pets.

I am setting up a "Free Table" near my mailbox next spring/summer so others can enjoy the harvest of my garden. I think it's a good time to reach out to others who have less or may need something, but may not want to say it.

When I get nervous about the world we're in, I buy soup. Somehow that makes me feel a little more secure. ;-)

Thanks for starting the conversation, January!

Catherine said...

The economic downturn started early in this household since my husband was made redundant early last year. He is earning again, but not as much - I returned to full time work for the first time in about thrity years (after raising lots of children), so I have less time for writing. And yes, I am buying fewer poetry books. It hasn't changed how I enter contests etc, because I never entered contests - I couldn't see the point of paying to submit poems to journals, when I could submit them free at other times. I suspect the poetry scene in New Zealand is less competition driven than the US, though.
Our poetry group has submitted a grant application to bring out another book, but that's not anything to do with the downturn as we had a grant for the first one, two.
I do find myself looking for opportunities for free treats, eg free entry to the recent writers festival here by working as a volunteer (which basically meant, collecting tickets at the door of each session, then my work was done and I could enjoy listening).

Jennifer said...

Jan,

I feel this is an opportunity to practice economizing and priortizing in a way I should have been doing all along in life (saving trees/paper by doing online submissions, saving calories by buying a starbucks tea instead of a chai latte, etcetera :) I think I've experienced a surge in creativity because I'm spending less of my time spending my money or thinking about spending my money on non-essentials. Actually, we stopped spending so much I realized I could now afford to buy more organics--which I need for my overall health situation. Also, I truely feel things will right themselves--eventually. I pray it's sooner rather than later but basically I can't help but feel I KNOW everything's going to be ok. Take care!

Jennifer

January said...

Jennifer, that's a great attitude to adopt about this whole financial mess. Going organic--you've definitely found something positive to focus on. And I love that your creativity has been infused by external forces.

It does seem like we’re going through a transition period where we’re being asked (or forced) to re-examine our lives, and writers and artists are no exceptions. I do find myself looking for deals (no-fee contests, or contests that offer a subscription with the price of entry). And I still find time and ways to support our local arts community.

Thanks Jennifer. I hope to take some of your attitude into my day.

January said...

Catherine, your story sounds much like what I’m hearing in the news these days.

The nice part about writing, in general, is that it’s cheap! And with the Internet and libraries, you can find the work of other writers, as well as build an audience without spending much money to do it.

Poetry in the U.S. is extremely competitive, despite the fact that there are so many places and ways to publish poems. Still, I think we’ll see some journals, magazines, and independent publishers disappear altogether or find support from colleges and universities with deep pockets in the next few years.
And like you, I try to latch on to as many freebies and I can. Free books and volunteering are big for me. When I co-host the NEWS Reading Series, I truly regret is that I can’t pay the writers to read. Wish I could because I believe writers should get paid for what they produce. My co-host and I are looking into grant money for 2009, but I’m not sure the money will be there for us in the future.

Hope the grant application for book #2 is granted.

January said...

Wow Kelli! Thanks for your thoughtful answers. (Had to wait for the kids to take a nap before sending a response.)

It will be interesting to see what poems come out of this tumultuous period. I’ve been looking for ways to talk about what’s going on without preaching. My hope is that I’m finally able to zone in some aspect and make it resonate to the reader, and for myself.

****

Yes, poetry books before bills!
Again, I feel that this shakeup is ultimately a good thing for us as a society, getting back to basics.
As a poetry editor, are you starting to see any trends at Crab Creek? Are you seeing fewer submissions, or is the quality of work more political?

****

I know I talk about having a simpler life, so this is as good a reason as any to cut back.
If there’s a silver lining for me, it is, like you, using my creativity to navigate the tough times. Sounds as if this downturn could last a few years before we can get our heads about water. So we all need to take pleasure from simple things.

I’m also hoping that this election is an opportunity for me and others to get involved in my community on a local level. It would be a shame to lose this momentum after the presidential elections. And, it’s foolish to believe that government can completely solve all of our problems.

****

Love the fact that you want to raise chickens, that you have a free table, and that you make soup. Think of how much better the world would be if families and friends sat down together to share a meal now and then. We just don’t talk to each other enough—the lost art of communication. If we did, I’d bet we’d be a more rational, understanding people.

Lastly, I think you should write a poem about soup!

Erin said...

As a creative entity, how is the recent economic downturn affecting how you create?
This is a great post, Jan--as always! Very thoughtful, and I've enjoyed reading the other responses.

Has the downturn affected how you write and what you write about?
• Not really--I have the luxury of writing for an audience that isn't effected by a shrinking IRA.

Are you making choices on how you spend your money (new poetry books vs. paying bills)?
• Oh, yes. But it's more about watching everything, from gas to food budget, etc, and trying to cut a little from everything so we can still do what we want.

Has the downturn changed how you enter contests, or look for grants and sources of funding?
• I've been behind on this for a while, so it hasn't changed anything. I don't typically look for many grants.

Has the downturn changed how you submit poems/manuscripts for publication, given the cost of postage and reading fees?
• Even before the downturn, I was selective in submissions. I really try to stick to e-mail submissions and enter few contests with reading fees.

Has the current state of your state led to opportunities? Have you found a silver lining?
• I'm definitely putting more focus on my finances and trying to learn as much as I can--so that's good. I'm a few decades away from retirement, so I'm trying to use this as a learning experience.

JimK said...

1) Strange increase in jotted ideas
and revision breakthrough. Must
pick soon....maybe jot
phrase/ideas for later.

2)Simplification, imagery:
maybe an escapism factor.

3) Yes: buying more chaps from
talented/young/poor po-types.
The word 'garnisheed' occurs more
as student loans tighten a vise.

4) No: the odds and amounts make
this not a reliable vein. Maybe
when the hit-rates make it more
relevant. The energy drain
of worry has cut activity a bit.
Submitting is more tiring than
creating, to me.

5) No...many take email. I'm
aiming a lot more carefully, but
that's to cut aggrevation on
venues that would have never
accepted. This is a very
nichey field. Patience is a rare
commodity and thus valuable in
poetry.

6) Maybe...at my day job. Some
of the sales uptick could be
cost-saving uses.

maureenpoetryblog said...

it's all made me question some of the BIG picture ideas: how i am a consumer and how much impact (negative or positive) i have in the world. and i'm not sure i'm reacting in a productive way. i know i'm not. it's overwhelming. so creatively? more questioning of who i am and what i should be doing with myself. is it really "OK" to be frittering away time like this? those kinds of things.

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

J ~ Interesting conversations. I watch more CNN, but still try to write now and then, meaning, I am just as lazy as I was. The economy has little to do with what I write ABOUT.

I always pay my bills on time (even tho' the gas and electric bills have doubled in the last few months. BUT, I buy MORE books than I ever did, thanks to Amazon's wonderful selection of amazingly cheap used books! (I have visions of a time when I can no longer afford movies, and the TV has blown out, of sitting by the firelight actually READING some of these books). LOL

I haven't contested for a long time, but I will admit I've been considering sending some poems out to my old Utah State Poetry contest, and even looking forward to rekindling some old friendships!

We have recycled for a long time ~ my husband says it's little enough he can do for the planet, so why not? It's easy to do. We try to keep a storage of emergency food on hand (maybe three months worth, lots of soup--and chili. Peanut butter and jelly. Tuna...no chickens yet, but we do have a couple of dogs, a bird, and a fish. Our neighbor has chickens (5) who sometimes wander over....

I had a garden. Once. Everything died. No green thumb here. But, if we really needed to, who knows?

I just hope our "fixed" income remains "fixed."

~ said...

J--

You asked:
As a poetry editor, are you starting to see any trends at Crab Creek? Are you seeing fewer submissions, or is the quality of work more political?


****We're seeing a lot of poetry submissions and few less in the fiction contest (which has a fee).

The work really isn't political. In fact, I'm amazed at how much of what we receive isn't.

We see a ton of relationship stuff. And writers trying to be edgy. I'm getting to the point where just a poem or story about ANYTHING ELSE stands out.

I don't want to have a bias on topic, so I'm trying to read each poem or story as its own unique vision, but it can get hard when it feels as if the writers is just trying to edgy for the sake of being edgy and the only topic they are allowed to write on is relationships.

January said...

I can only imagine the poems and fiction that comes across your desk, Kelli. Well, maybe in the near future the subject matter will change. It may take months for this crisis to enter into the literature.

I'm also not one for edgy work for the sake of being clever. Leaves me a bit cold if it's not done well.

Thanks again for your thoughtful answers

January said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
January said...

Joyce, I hope you do enter a contest or two, or at least submit your work. I’ve really enjoyed reading your work over the past year. And if it leads to rekindling old friendships and connections, then it’s worth it.

I love that you store food. I think I have a one-month supply, and I have at least a three-year supply of books to see me through!

January said...

Maureen, I am in the exact same place you are. I’ve been asking myself this question: “ If we are all in this together, then what is my responsibility to fix things?” What can I do locally or virtually to make a difference. It is my great hope that I can find an answer to that question in ’09. How should I respond as a creative force in the world?

I have more questions than answers these days. But I love how others are responding, so I’m taking a bit from everyone move forward.

If you come up with any answers, please share!

January said...

Jim, I find myself with a lot more starts than stops. Lots of jotted ideas but not real poems. I can’t get into a zone in my work. I wonder how much of that is me and how much is external forces at work.

I do love that you buy more books by talented, lesser known (I’m assuming) poets.

And yes, the real work of poetry sometimes is the submission process.

Writer Bug said...

A very interesting post. I'm definitely feeling stressed about the economy. I lost a big, regular freelance project when the publisher decided to can it, so I'm feeling it on a personal level.

To be honest, though, I don't actually spend that much money in the creation of art. I am an insane lover of the library, so I get the large majority of my reading done for free. I need a home internet connection for work, so while I do use that for other things, that is a necessity. Ditto my laptop.

I think the only way this is going to impact my art is that I'm going to have to cancel some luxuries that save me a lot of time, and time of course is something I definitely need to make writing happen. Actually, now that I write that, I realize that this is a big impact.

January said...

Bug, I wonder if the freelance market will dry up or expand during this period. I mean, will employers choose freelancers over long-term employers, or will companies buckle down and rely on the resources they already have.

In any case, I'm sorry you lost the freelance gig. Maybe that means a better one is out there for you.

One of the benefits of being a creative person is that we can always make something out of nothing. Doesn't take much to write a story or poem, just time--the biggest commodity of all.

JimK said...

Sometimes the finish
arrives years after the start.
Sometimes I wince at what I
set out too quick.
I'm glad I didn't throw
away all the orphans. They
are in your mind somewhere
straightening themselves out,
if you have an incubator mind.
Some say never revise. Others
(more common) swear by it.
If it's a problem with
"putting it just right" that
problem can brew, and it only
gets better.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails