Alien Street Art (Taken with Instagram at 325 West 57th St)
Alien Street Art (Taken with Instagram at 325 West 57th St)

Ai Weiwei: Art through suffering

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You can push a creative man into silence but all this does is fuel his creative output.

China held artist and “dissident” Ai Weiwei in captivity for 81 days. He nearly died.

Weiwei is now turning his jail time experience into a piece of art. For Weiwei, creative expression is more about storytelling than profit.

“Very few people know why art sells so high,” Mr. Ai replied. “I don’t even know.”

Still, his art sells for hundreds of thousands at Sotheby's in New York.

Weiwei lived in New York for 11 years before heading back to China. The creative freedom he learned in New York shines through WeiWei’s work.

Weiwei teaches us to make something lasting, in good times or bad. As Neil Gaiman said in his commencement speech this week:

“When things get tough, make good art. Make it on the bad days. Make it the good days too.”

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Free Is Complicated

Giving away content for free is a complicated issue. If you're an established author with a decent sized fan base, you should charge for your book, even make limited edition and bonus versions.  If you're a new writer, you should give your stuff away for free online to get exposure, no strings attached.  Sometimes well known authors give away freebies and new authors charge. BUT you should be wary of free for 3 reasons:

  1. Free devalues your art.  If you're willing to give it away for free, you make your work seem unimportant.
  2. Free doesn't necessarily mean people will take it.  You still need to make good content and have at least 1 person out of 10 talking about your work with others.
  3. Free challenges you to keep making more free content, with no guarantee that you'll one day profit from it.
Here's 3 reasons why free works:
  1. Free is a great way to get people to taste your work.
  2. Free may give you the exposure you need on review sites.
  3. Free may lead to other stuff like talking events and a legitimate deal with a publisher.
I've always believed that the best way to use free is to get something in return, an email, a Facebook fan like, or Twitter follower.  Free enables you to build a tribe, whom then become your promoters when you decide to release a paid item.
The Internet's massive distribution system, manufacturing ease (there is none!), and social networking tools make free attractive.  But just because it's easier to ship and promote doesn't mean it'll work.  Many of the rules are the same:  you need someone pitching your story, you need people whom believe in you, and you need to continue perfecting your craft.