Looking Into Creative Entrepreneurship: A Messy Search for Meaning
Elle Griffin over at The Novelleist shared this interesting interview with Nishant Jain wherein they discuss the concept of creative entrepreneurship. It’s a good read, and I suggest you check it out before reading what I have here.
Okay so bear with me here as we take apart words.
Creative. Here, we’re using that in the same sense that most Internet marketing folks do, the plural of which is usually rendered as ‘creatives’ and is a kind of catch-all term for anyone who does anything that outside of the world of business would be called an art or craft. Have a quick look at this, if you like: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics index of Industries by Supersector. How many of these do you think would qualify? Notice anything else?
On to entrepreneurship, which of course is the business of business, right? You’re the business person and you’re taking on more financial risk than average, whatever that means. Oxford also defines it in another sense as “a promoter in the entertainment industry,” so we may be using multiple senses at the same time here, since we’re talking about Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation (NAICS 71). But, we’re also talking about Internet Publishing and Broadcasting (NAICS 516) and Publishing Industries (except Internet) (NAICS 511); and I think many ‘creatives’ would argue that we (notice the inclusion of myself) can be a great asset to any industry if we can just figure out how to sell ourselves while maintaining our Private Households (NAICS 814) and not completely breaking down.
But, T, you say. Who gives a shit how the government classifies industry in a free-market economy? Won’t the consumers vote with their dollars?
I’m glad you asked, you. But that takes us into deeper water.
I’m not super politically-minded and by that I mean I’ve never really ‘gotten’ politics. So I don’t feel in any way qualified to even identify as, say, a market socialist or a Trotskyist or anything left of AOC. It’s not that I don’t know what those things mean; that’s easy enough. What I'm unsure of is how the political psychology, the American sociology, the human anthropology (sorry for the redundancy there) all work out to mean anything useful.
Same goes for economics. I can’t tell you in a meaningful way how drunk-at-the-wheel right libertarian capitalism is meaningfully different from market socialism, but I sense that it is. And I can’t tell you how continuing this endless Hunger Games-esque quest for … what? is going to bear any fruit worth eating.
So then we might think, well fuck it. I’ll just write for myself (or do whatever creative bits make me a ‘creative’ in the marketplace) and content myself to the NAICS 814 of it all. But this will not work. I can assure you, it won’t. I’ve never met an artist who could simply do this and be happy. You’ll always need an audience, a connection of some kind. So now–and this is no great insight or mystery–we actually have two values co-occurring. My first instinct was to say ‘competing’ but maybe not. Let’s look.
I value being able to make a living from art (i.e., ‘creative entrepreneurship’), and I value connecting with others through art. A pro-capitalist sort of person is going to see the win-win and grow dollar signs in the eyes and try to splice those things into a ‘following’, ‘a platform’, ‘a fanbase’--you know, whatever you want to call your customers that sounds less like customers. And don’t let me cheapen it. I have several folks to whom I am solely a customer, and I love them. There’s nothing wrong with this in itself, especially given that we’re born into the society we are, and we have to deal with that to some extent on its own terms. And certainly there is an honorable way to do most anything, so I don’t see an issue there in the abstract. The issue for me is that it isn’t really what I want. Like at all.
So we look at other ways. Like anarchist collectives, trust economies, you know … zines, basically. And while that scene is super cool, no one is making enough money to support their NAICS 814. Right libertarians and related thinkers love to complain about coercion but seem to forget that private entities coerce you just as much. You pay them or you get nothing from them. That shapes not just your day to day, but your month to month, your year, and perhaps ultimately the course of your life. Stepping out of that takes some finesse, and just like in business, the sociopolitical forest is rife with brigands looking to recruit, co-opt, and utilize you and your art for their own purposes.
What’s an artsy folk to do?
As I said, I don’t know. If I did, I promise that’s one secret I wouldn't keep. But maybe we can search for it together, a way to share our art and support each other, to ‘share risk’ as the cappies call it and be there for ourselves and each other. Writers tend to be at the heart of reshaping these systems of thought, and guess what we do?
So don’t be shy. Sound off and tell me where I may be missing something or clue me in to some avenue I haven’t gone down yet. Together we can find a way that’s cooler and better and makes people feel good about making art.