Look at your address book or your Facebook friends list and count how many of your friends are “indies.” What’s an indie? An indie is someone who produces something like a book, music, film, etc independent of a corporation or company funding their art. An indie is someone who works very hard, for usually very little, and is in constant need of your support. Sometimes they are just starting out, other times they are veterans of their indie scene. Sometimes they make money, a lot of time they don’t. And they always need help from their friends.
There are ways to support your indie friends and ways to really get them riled up and pissed. One of the worst things you can do – and this is such a common issue – is ask for freebies. “Oh you’re in a band, can you get us into the club… get us a free CD… give us a band T-Shirt.” “Oh, you write books, give me one then and I’ll read it.” “Oh, you’re an artist, I’ve got this empty spot in my hallway, think you can fill it?”
A lot of the time people think this type of thing is offering support to indies. I hear a lot of “but I’m encouraging you…” FYI I don’t need encouragement. I’ve already given up my job and dedicated my life to this – I need support, not a slave labour contract. But worse than this “freebie grabbing” is the radio silence most people give their indie friends.
It’s a bit like your friend Sarah who posts endless pictures of her kids. You see them, they make you smile because you remember when Sarah couldn’t get her shit together and now she’s got a great family. It’s the same with your indie friends. You see them doing their thing and you’re proud of them, but that’s where your involvement ends. You wouldn’t share Sarah’s kids on Facebook so why would you share your writer friend’s latest story?
And I think this is a huge problem for indies – getting their friends and families to see their “hobby” as a serious legitimate enterprise. It doesn’t help that most indies have to hold down other jobs to pay the bills, but that doesn’t make what they are doing any less important in their lives. If anything this art they are producing IS the thing in their lives and it needs to be recognised as such. Ignoring it makes us indies feel unloved and uncared for. The thing that is most important to us is being shunned by the people we are closest to.
If we started viewing indies less as self-indulgent arty types and more like we do other careers our perspective on what they do would change. If you know that your old school mate John happens to be a good plumber then you naturally recommend him to people you know when you get the opportunity. If your kid is trying to raise funds for their football team you would probably tweet or advertise the initiative to gain support. Why is this different to indie work? It isn’t.
The main issue though is less with indie friends and more with indies themselves. Unfortunately artistic types (and I can say this because I’m one of them) are typically temperamental at the best of times. I know myself when doing this type of heart on your sleeve work, the emotional upheaval is immense. How is this conveyed to our friends out of the indie scene? Well we must seem like crazy people, trying to run up a vertical wall with jellied eels strapped to our feet. When we don’t make a sale it’s devastating, when we do make a sale there is the briefest moment of egotistical euphoria, followed by more statistic watching and an even bigger emotional dive. Most of us dip in and out of the business to keep ourselves sane, professing “we’re only doing what we want when we want” or “I’m not interested in commercialism” or “I’m going to give up this writing stuff, it just doesn’t make me happy.” You know the kind of bullshit. The kind of comments that scream “I’m not responsible, not driven, not serious.” Followed closely by “Hey look at me, look what I’ve done, each and every one of you should have this up on your fridge, you should be proud of me!”
Let’s face it – we’re exhausting and impossible to keep track off. On Monday we want to jack everything in. By Wednesday we’re going to be famous. Come Saturday we’ve levelled off and become practical, for the whole thing to start again. Whereas most people go through a love hate relationship with their job, artists seem to take these feelings and elevate them beyond the ludicrous. While I’m sat pulling my hair out because I can’t seem to write like I could yesterday, my friend trying to educate a classroom of unruly morons – how can she support me when my mind set is so irrational?
The truth is we all have our own lives and, while I’m engrossed in publishing my next book, I’m less concerned with what Sarah and her kids are doing this week. I imagine her thoughts are the same about me and my work… I mean I imagine that now, because I’m all calm and rational, but give me a couple of hours of writer’s block or a day of no sales and it’s a different story.
So indies when your friends do support you – and they will – remember to keep your eye on those friends too. Just because they’re not writing, playing, creating, doesn’t mean you can ignore the things important to them. And friends of indies if you see a post online about your indie’s work then just repost it for them – in those two seconds your effort could make a very irrational person briefly sedated.