When someone contracts me to write or to develop marketing creative, I expect to be compensated. Most often, the compensation is money, but on occasion, it is a service-for-service barter.
But, as often as not, I voluntarily offer my creative services to friends and acquaintances who are pursuing passion projects or who are doing something about which I am passionate.
I’ve Tweeted and Facebooked madly about a nearby restaurant that specializes in bacon sandwiches.
I’ve created promotional posters for crowd-funding campaigns of a short film I would love to see made and a bizarre puppetry show at distant Fringe festivals.
And in other cases, I’ve merely retweeted and shared posts by favourite bloggers, artists and journalists.
Yet for all of this work—almost universally welcomed by the sources—I have never directly been compensated. And not only am I okay with that, I am actually pleased. Compensation was never my goal.
I’ve had a few friends who’ve witnessed my mania and offered feedback like:
They should be feeding you for free for all this work.
I hope they appreciate what you’re doing for them.
And I smile and shrug, because again, that isn’t my purpose.
Instead, my goal is to apply my passions and skills to help others achieve theirs, even if unsolicited and unrecognized. The point is the doing, not the acknowledgement.
This isn’t to say that such recognition isn’t welcomed and received with gratitude. Pretty much everyone to whom I have offered my gift has expressed his or her joy and appreciation in receiving it. And in a few cases, I have even received wonderful gifts.
After psychotically promoting the anarchic puppet improv spectacle PuppetUp! through social media, the show’s co-creator Patrick Bristow gave me a souvenir puppet from the show to express his thanks. I was grateful for this gesture and cherish the puppet for the sentiment it represents. But the greater gifts I received in this effort were the friendships I formed with the co-creator and the puppeteers that we still maintain years later.
Ironically, if I have struggled of late, it is in the simple acceptance of acts of kindness from others, whether unsolicited or in response to acts on my part. As much as I eschew the same behaviour in those to whom I offer kindness, I feel like I should at least compensate people for theirs to me. Instead, I am making an effort to simply say thank you.
If nothing else, you’re setting up some good karma.
And I smile and shrug, because ultimately, I don’t think you can force karma in any direction.
To my mind, the very desire of and attempt to create good karma negates it. Doing so implies a need for compensation for kind deeds.
It must be enough for me to do the good deed. Karma will do what karma will do.
I used to dismiss my efforts with a waved hand and a quick: It’s nothing. I now realize that is a discredit to myself, to the gift, and to the recipient.
It is not nothing. It is decidedly something. But it is something that I wish to do and offer gladly.
It is, perhaps ironically, a symbol of my gratitude to the recipient.
[And now, to completely deflate the seriousness of my message, does anyone else hear the music to The Little Drummer Boy?]