Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

The Clash of Collaborative Creativity and Capitalism

I dream of a society based on barter and mutual support.

I know, I know . . . crazy or too close to socialism or something like that.

But seriously, I wish that we could simply exchange goods or labor, rather than be ruled by this fictitious thing called money. Money is not real. I mean, yes, there is physical money, and at one point it somehow connected to the weight of precious metals. But, its getting more and more unreal, as things like cryptocurrency and the stock market thrive on the idea that imaginary money builds more money.  In some, since money is now mostly associated with plastic cards and apps, some peole don't even know what money looks like.

Money is simply this thing that people (wealthy people in particular) cling too, when it really means nothing.

I admit, I am not an expert when it comes to economics. I don't understand money, and I never will. What I do understand, though, is that in our broken late-capitalist society, money breeds money, and everyone else gets screwed. The exchange of money for true labor (the workers, the artists, the writers, the actors) is never equal to the money exchanged for so-called ownership (the producers, the CEOs, the 1%) of people who don't really understand the work.

Where is this rant coming from? I'm frustrated. 

I'll try to explain, but first I think I should take a step back and remind you of something I've shared before. It's what I call a "Creative Bill of Rights"

A Creative Bill of Rights. Creativity is, and should be . . . the foundation of what it means to be human. the starting point for seeking solutions for the problems that plague us.  a right of all human beings.  the thing that unifies us all.  the act of building upon the ideas of others, because originality is almost impossible.

As far as I am concerned Creative Power belongs to everyone, and should be free to be used and shared. But, we live in a world, where those who have monetary power take advantage of the creative power of others for their own financial gain. It is only becoming worse as AI technology becomes the flavor of the times--owners may feel they don't actually need human creatives anymore.  The SAG-AFTRA actors and writers strike is evidence of this, as explained in the article "
Writers strike: Why A.I. is such a hot-button issue in Hollywood’s labor battle with SAG-AFTRA'.

What does this have to do with my frustation? I've bartered plenty, in creative ways. I have exchanged editing for paintings. I've given free access to salons in exchange for a reading of my star chart in search of where I belong in the world.  I have accepted lower payments than I should for work that requires time and energy. I've poured hours into plays and projects that I don't get paid for, because I believe in the collaborative team and want the project to succeed. I donated a portion of every book sale of P.O.Wer to programs that support women and children (until for some reason  my royalty checks stopped coming)1. I love sharing what I can with others. 

But then, partially because of my own choices, but also because of societal breakdown since Trump and Covid, I am now in a position where it's harder for me to barter. I need to pay bills. I dream of a Creative Economy, where we can build a collaborative system of support, but that requires money in a capitalist society. It's truly a 

Twisted lines of color with the words Collaborative Connundrum
So many wonderful people are supportive of this book, this project, me. I'm blessed. They want to share, to promote, to spread the word. That's my collaborative team.  And, many of them can't donate. I get that, but its hard.

Then there are the ones who say, "I love your campaign, let me help you promote it, just pay me $xxxxxx first." Or "Your campaign is great dear [I hate it when they call me dear] and I will hook you up with a friend who you can pay to help you."  They never donate, even when they love the campaign. I don't get that. Call me crazy, but if you love a campaign enough to want to market it, then maybe, just maybe, you should consider making a donation, even if is the smallest possible one. Or am I just naive?

So, I'm frustrated. I don't expect to get anything for nothing. Within my limited means, I offer something in exchange for even the smallest donations. If I could, I would provide the largest package to all contributers, but those include printed books that I need money to be able to print.2

How do we solve this creative connundrum? The answer lies in collaborative creativity and curiosity, but for me I need to find a way to make some cash first. 

1. Before you ask, I don't know why. I know books have been sold. I cannot afford a lawyer to help me figure it out. Part of it, I believe, somes from Amazon's pay policies. 

2.Side story. My book Creative Collaborations through Inclusive Theatre and Community Based Learning was priced so high by the publishing company (Palgrave/McMillan) that I could not afford to buy enough copies to bring to a book signing where I could sell them. I only get a tiny percentage of any sales. Part of the reason I am choosing self-publishing this time.