Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Peculiar Little Pleasures, and Their Cost

Several years ago, I got a letter from a girl asking permission to name her doll Ada, after Ada Bauer, one of the heroines of Switching Well.

I have no idea why she felt she needed permission, but I'm just as glad she did, because if she hadn't written to ask, I'd never know she'd liked Ada well enough to want to do that. Of course I told her she could, and threw in the additional information that I'd borrowed the name Ada, myself, from my grandmother, who went by Lois and didn't use the Ada part of her name. I like the chain of associations there, me honoring Gramma with Ada, and the girl honoring all of us with the doll.

Recently, in my simming newsgroup, I posted a picture of the new cutest toddler in my neighborhood, Swainson Hawkins, and another poster agreed that he was amazingly squeelicious and wanted a copy of him. Since I know her to not be a sim-torturer (there are people I'd no more share my imaginary people with than I'd loan my cat to a serial killer), of course I complied, and this week she sent me pictures of him, all grown up, married to a sim she made, and with their toddler child - Peni Hawkins! Who, I am told, is much smarter than other sim toddlers (Well, she would be!)and gets read to all the time.

This, lets's face it, is one of the reasons not to be content with creating just for ourselves. We are social animals. We like compliments, which is exactly what both these incidents are. We get satisfaction from sharing our work, and also from seeing the uses to which other people put our work. Writing a story that no one ever reads is like baking a cake no one eats.

This is one reason why creation sells so cheap. It's easy for the general public to make us feel that we should be satisfied to be noticed, and not expect to be valued to the extent of getting paid a living wage. Because the sensations of having a little girl's doll named after my character, and that of having a sim named after me, are so similar, it is easy to conflate the processes by which these satisfactions arise. But, though creating Ada was about as much fun as creating Swainson, creating Ada was work, and creating Swainson was play. I deserve money for creating Ada, in the form of royalties from her story, but not for Swainson.

Yet all over the world, because the internet makes it so easy, people are giving their work away, in return for a handful of compliments. But the compliments are not guaranteed, and the creator who does not get them then feels much, much worse than he would if he'd simply failed to get accepted by a regular publisher.

Compliments are lagniappe. If they are your only recompense, and you don't get them, you will feel cheated.

Don't put yourself in that position. Give freely, and from the heart, of your play and your duty; but sell your work.

If you volunteer your work for a cause, that is admirable, but don't expect thanks; then, if you are not thanked (and most volunteers aren't, I'm afraid; most volunteers are taken for granted) there's no harm done and if you are, it's a delightful bonus.

Remember this when you're using other people's creations, too. The cost to you of telling the cook you liked her cake is miniscule, compared to the pleasure being told so gives to the cook!

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