There’s something I need to tell you. I like to write positive messages and send them into the world, but I secretly feel cheated and offended when I am not given credit for what I have written. Well, maybe it’s not such a secret. But it’s something I feel a little funny discussing, for various reasons. In the summer, I made a flier that went with my 24-hour zine, Little Acorns #5, something like a permission slip to be weird. I debated with myself over whether or not to put my name on the flier. I wanted to share this message, but I didn’t necessarily want it to look like self-promotion. However, the last time I made a flier, somebody posted it on Tumblr without credit or permission, and I felt really icky about it, and last I checked, it’s been re-posted more than 3,000 times. I was also embarrassed that the flier was associated with the silliness of “girlvirus”, of which I have since removed myself. Credit was eventually added to the flier, and I get blog hits from it pretty much everyday, but it seems to have opened up no discussions at all, despite the amount of folks who seem to be really into it, and that makes me sad.
And so it happened again: I made a flier, and somebody, I don’t know who, scanned it and put it up on Tumblr without my permission, and I remained unaware until it had been re-posted more than 1,000 times. My sister told me about it when I came to Montréal to visit her, and when I checked it a few days later, it had been re-posted more than 2,000 times. [EDIT: As of April 2012, it has been re-tumbled nearly 10,000 times. I really hope that means that 10,000 wonderful things have been created from scratch!]
[Image: Scan of a yellow piece of paper with typewritten words that read, “You have permission to be weird! Or angry or confused or joyful or delighted or all of the above or none of the above. You have permission to feel however you feel. Your feelings are valid and understandable. Ask questions. Ask friends, acquaintances, strangers: How are you feeling today? What do you need? Ask yourself the same questions. Take care of yourself. We live in worlds that weren’t created for weirdos and rad folks like us, and we need to learn how to take care of ourselves and each other so we can survive and thrive and continue building better worlds.”]
My friend Kit kindly added proper credit, for which I am grateful, but I know that nobody really gives a fuck. It’s become just another image to post on the internet to show your friends how cool you are.
They wrote: LISTEN UP. This lovely flyer was created by MARANDA ELIZABETH, who also made this gem that has circulated Tumblr without credit. Quoi le fuck! How hard is it to give credit to the creators of art you love & appreciate? Stop stealing and taking credit for rad shit you wish you made, you jerks*! Goddammit!
I know it might not seem like a big deal, but when stuff like this happens, I start questioning why I bother making art at all. I don’t have a Tumblr account (therefore absolutely nothing I’ve made should be on there without my permission – when I make something that I want to be on Tumblr, I ask my sister to post it for me), but I look at those pages sometimes, and I see pretty things, but for the most part, it is an energy-suck, and I always end up feeling worse. To me, it seems like a place where you can show off what a radical manic pixie dream human spirit creative such & such you are by showing off stuff you like, not stuff you made. Not your owns words, your own art. And that makes me uncomfortable.
So yeah. The question of why I bother. The question of why I make anonymous fliers and then feel pissed when I don’t get credit. It’s something like this: I write the stories I wish had already been written, I write the stories I wish I found when I was a teenager so maybe I could have struggled a little less, or maybe I could have had someone to relate to, or maybe I wouldn’t have made such a mess, or maybe I’d be able to clean up that mess faster. And when I write, I want it to be read, but more than that, I want you to write (or make whatever kind of art it is you like to make or want to make or talk about making but never get around to). I don’t want to see my fliers posted a thousand times on the internet; I want you to be inspired to MAKE YOUR OWN STUFF. Write your own stories, make your own fliers, use your own words, illustrate your own pictures. Don’t show me something you like, show me something you made.
Somebody recently asked me if they could “remake” my flier and post it around their city. It’s nice that people like my words, but my answer is this:
Honestly, I am not okay with folks reprinting my work. A lot of what I write is meant to encourage others to find the guts to write their own stuff, not to copy mine (certainly not to “remake” it). The flier was actually scanned and posted online without my consent, by someone I don’t even know. I didn’t know my flier was online until it had been reposted more than 1000 times. It makes me feel really uncomfortable when somebody takes something like that with seemingly no thought or care for the person who created it. If you’re feeling inspired to make your own fliers with your own words and post them around town, that’s cool with me, I highly encourage you to do so, but I am absolutely not okay with you or anyone else making copies of something I have already taken the trouble to write myself. If you “love the message”, please take it as inspiration to create something of your own! I want folks to share their own stories, and to find & speak in their own words, not the words of someone else. I very much appreciate you asking first!! Please don’t let this discourage you from making your own stuff.
Here are some related things I don’t have time to talk about today, but am thinkng about, and maybe we can discuss them later:
- if folks are into the positive message, who cares who created it? At least it’s being read & shared?
- when one must remove themselves from a group such as girlvirus, how can their friends show solidarity & support?
- when did it become cool to scan stuff from zines and post them without credit? (this happens with a lot of old riot grrrl zines, and I think that is related to why folks seem to think it’s okay to scan more recent stuff as well)
- is an image on the internet more or less accessible than a paper zine, or is it accessible in different ways? What ways? At what point does a creator lose control of their own work? When does the creator have to accept that their work will be shared in ways that they are not necessarily okay with?
- shouldn’t I at least feel good that so many people like what I wrote and wanted to share it with their pals?
- isn’t it kinda cool that folks that still like my stuff when they don’t know it’s mine?
- maybe it did inspire a lotta folks to make their own stuff, and I just don’t know about it yet?
P.S.: Maybe I’m just bitter because I’m not “making a living” with my “art”? Who is anyway? What the fuck.