March 19, 2011
I confess that I am not comfortable with the type of person that goes around calling themself "an artist." I had a very good friend (who died tragically at the age of 47 just a year ago) who was very much an "art for art's sake" type of person, who would repeatedly say, "If the artist says it's art, then it's art." Which was how modern artists can pile up bubblegum in a corner and call it art or nail a short piece of rope to a wall and call it art.
I have always been an art for commerce kind of guy, although that's probably not really true. I've done fine as an amateur musician over the course of 30 years or so simply playing because I liked to play. Granted, I taught piano for a while and I did it for money (why in the hell else would you want to teach piano, I'm inclined to ask), and when I was in high school I was the designated junior choir accompanist at the church and had a monthly honorarium of $50 for it. (An elderly gentleman with a fair chunk of money who was enamored with music at the church left a decent amount of money to the church for just this sort of purpose when he passed away, God bless him).
Recently I've been busy with paying work, frustrated with the publishing industry, my agent, and my own writing efforts, so I haven't really been writing fiction. I'm also curious to see if I miss it (jury's still out, but I've been sick this last week, so I haven't been much interested in doing anything but sleeping).
It does strike me that I might be far happier with Ye Olde Fiction Writing if I do it because I want to do it, not because I expect to make any money at it. Which does make the e-self-publishing market a far more pleasant experience than all the other hoop-jumping aspects of fiction writing.
A buddy of mine and I had a cordial disagreement over a piece of his writing that in many ways I thought showed our inherent writing philosophies. And yet, Steve told me he got what he wanted out of that piece of writing (I did not, no matter how many times I read it). And sometimes, recently anyway, I've been contemplating that statement he made to me: I got what I wanted out of the experience.
I'm not 100% sure what it was he got, but part of it was to tell the story he wanted to tell in the way he wanted to tell it without regard, necessarily, for its publishability or even pleasing, er me.
And I know for a fact that when I have anything resembling writer's block, it's because I'm obsessing about whether the work in question is going to be publishable. But if I accept that it will be simply because I'm going to publish it, perhaps all that angst goes away and I can enjoy the process once again.
Because, frankly, if you don't enjoy the process of writing and you're not making much money at it, there has got to be a better way to spend your time.