Free is Free is Free

Is it just me, or have my last couple posts here been really lame?

(and you might say: “Nope, not just you. As a matter of fact, they’ve all been lame!”)

Oh screw you, you ungrateful twit! You don’t get to complain, you got it for free. Hey, you know what else is free? That’s right, my shitty novels! Free. Free. Free! FREE! Click on that bit at the topish part of the screen, the one that says Novels.

Go read ’em if you want. All it will cost you is a little of your oh-so-limited time on this beautiful earth. No no, don’t travel the world, read my shitty novels instead. Please, continue staring at the computer screen, it’s not like you’re wasting the precious moments of your fleeting youth sifting though digital bullshit. Look, there was a typo in that last sentence. It should have said “through.” Are you really willing to tolerate this level of quality?

You do realize that you’ll be old before you know it, decrepit and senile most likely. I wonder if you’ll look back and think to yourself: Gosh, I sure wish I hadn’t wasted all that time reading shitty novels I found on the Internet, even if they were free. Just saying, it’s a possibility. Here’s another possibility: you get hit by a bus tomorrow morning and reading one of my shitty novels is the very last thing you ever did. How would that feel? Would it feel good? Is that the legacy you want to leave behind? Do you want that carved on your gravestone? RIP, a weird sod who read too much free shit on the internet. I’ll bet it isn’t. But don’t be scared off or anything. Those are just worst case scenarios!

I mean, you could read my shitty novels if you want. They’re free after all. Say you do read them, here are a few possibilities which are a bit more likely: You finish reading one of my shitty novels and you hate it, hate it, “What a goddamn waste of time,” you say, “no wonder it was free!” Or you read six pages and think to yourself: I don’t really want to read this, and then you don’t!

Jesus Christ, you must be thinking now, that is possible!

Better play it safe and not read my shitty novels. Even though they’re free. Really really free. Completely free.

You like free things, don’t you? You cheap fuck.

* * *

Okay folks, but seriously now.

When it really came down to it, it was an easy decision to make my books free. It’s one of those things, you know you should do it but for some reason you put it off. And when you finally do get around to it you immediately feel a lot better. Anyway, it turned out to be pretty simple math in the end: I want people to read my stuff. If it’s free, it’s easier to get ahold of, and that’s all to the good.

But of course there’s another reason. There’s always another reason.

I don’t know exactly how to articulate this, but I guess it just feels kind of crass, taking money for art. It’s all too easy to confuse price with value, when the two really have only the most coincidental of relationships. Don’t get me wrong, I have zero problems with an artist who wants to make a living off of what they do, I just don’t trust myself not to be corrupted by the commercial allure. I think that everybody, in some distant corner of themselves, wants to be rich and famous. I mean, why wouldn’t you? It’s not difficult to figure out, if you have money than you can get other things. If you have fame then you can trick yourself into thinking that your life has actual meaning.

The trouble with operating as a commercial artist, of course, is that you start to get “trained” by what people buy. Your work becomes market driven. “This is popular, so I will do more of this. This isn’t popular, so no more of that.” And the more money motivates creation, the more the individuality and value of the thing is squeezed out, until all that’s left is product. Next time you’re in an art gallery or a book store or a record shop, just go ahead and look around and see if you think I’m wrong.

I really don’t like that, and I don’t want it to happen to me. So the books are free, okay? You read ’em if you want, and I’ll just write whatever comes to me. Maybe you’ll find something you like.

That’s money. I can do without money – to a certain extent. Fame and respect, on the other hand… that’s a more potent drug. One of those few things that money cannot buy. I’m not so good at resisting the desire to be liked and, in a way, that’s a great deal more dangerous to my “artistic vision” than money ever could be.

Here’s an example. This post was going to be a whole lot shorter. Only that top half was originally going to appear. And then, when I got online to publish it for all my slavering fans (that’s you reading this, btw) I saw that somebody had posted a review of my new book. And gosh darn it, they really liked it.

I can’t quite describe how it felt to read that review. It’s probably suffice to say that it felt good. I have never found anything in this world that gives me more pleasure than hearing that a person appreciates something I created. The use of the word “drug” up above was not accidental; it’s an addictive feeling.

So I held off posting this. I couldn’t just slap up some drivel, I’d got an audience now! I had to write more, I had to explain myself! And thus: this.

I considered taking out some of those swear words up there. What if people thought I sounded juvenile and silly? What if they rolled their eyes at me? The given approval could so easily be revoked. I started thinking of ways to alter the projects* I’m currently working on so that they would appeal more to people, anything to get a few more of those beautiful yellow stars, a few more comments, a bit more of your attention.

I’ll be your whore if you let me. I’ll be your slobbering dog.

That impulse, in the end, is a good deal more difficult to resist than mere financial gain. I can only isolate myself so far. Still, making the books free is a good start. And, for now anyway, I’ve maintained myself. This blog post has been born into the world relatively uncorrupted. All of my stupid jokes and inane profanity and tongue-in-cheek self deprecation remains firmly in place.

And that’s just grand.

*Those projects, in case you’re wondering, are as follows: A series of blog posts about a television series, the final edit of my next novel – which will hopefully be out in a few months – and the first draft of my next book, which is turning into quite an epic. When I’m done with them, you’ll get all of these things for free. You lucky son of a gun!

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