Since I have been on the topic of arts and cultural organizations broadly providing content to anyone who happens by virtually, I figured there is space to point to another voice in the conversation.
Seth Godin made a post recently titled Generous isn’t always the same as free. I raised the idea yesterday that maybe providing all this content isn’t in the best interests of creative entities in the long term.
Godin’s idea of generous not being the same as free may hold a key to resolving questions about this. He uses examples of a doctor taking the time to understand your needs, a waitress anticipating your needs and a boss who provides the challenging work you need.
In this last case, the generosity might actually result in you working longer and harder than before in order for you to grow. It may be a few years before you recognize that bit of generosity was beneficial and required more of your boss than they need have invested in you.
I don’t bring this up to transition to an argument about suffering contributing to the eventual growth or appreciation of creative organizations or those that participate in their activities. Lord knows there has been plenty of “suffering for your art” conversations throughout history.
Rather, I wanted emphasize Godin’s point that the common element in each of his examples is the contributions to stronger relationships.
Gifts create connection and possibility, but not all gifts have monetary value. In fact, some of the most important gifts involve time, effort and care instead.
In this moment when we’re so disconnected and afraid, the answer might not be a freebie. That might simply push us further apart. The answer might be showing up to do the difficult work of connection, of caring and of extending ourselves where it’s not expected.
When you are pretty anxious about the future of your organization, you may not feel you have the luxury of the deliberative, multi-week process Nina Simon laid out in her blog post I excerpted yesterday. You should have the time, though, to consider whether choices made and effort expended are generous gestures that will contribute to a relationship, albeit over a long term, or a simple freebie.
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