Art is weird.
On the one hand, it’s something we do to please ourselves. It’s also something we consume to enlighten or amuse ourselves. It’s a far more vital resource than I think many are willing to give it credit for, but that’s another argument for another blog.
But then you decide you’d like to do your art for a job. And then everything changes, at least a little bit.
You start having a war in your head between the forces of creative juju and the forces of commercial enterprise. And it often IS a war, because the things that fuel the passion of art are not always the things that fuel our desire for a paycheck. And we DO want a paycheck, because otherwise we’d get “real” jobs, and art would become hobby and no one would ever complain about “lazy” starving artists.
There are people who DO make those two opposing forces jive together. Some people call them “sell-outs,” but I’m not here to have THAT old argument either, probably because I fucking hate how easily people use that label to define the precious few who have managed to successfully eke financial gain out of an artistic pursuit. “No, Artist Person! You’re supposed to amuse me AND be poor! That way I can criticize you for being a smelly, lazy piece of shit who amuses me! Like a monkey, see? Now dance, monkey, dance!”
Squeezing money out of my writing over the last seven years hasn’t been easy. I have not yet gotten to the point where we could come even close to living off my income as a family. In fact, that’s laughable to even consider, especially factoring in things like health insurance and other perks “real jobs” offer as part of the deal. But it’s getting better. I’ve added workshop teaching and conventions to my stream of income sources, and that’s made a big difference. I still take on freelance editing jobs. I also have an agent working hard to secure me a big book deal, so everything could possibly change at the drop of a hat. The business side of things keeps trucking, and meanwhile I keep writing.
But I write for so many different reasons now, and the reasons are all dependent upon whether we’re talking about why I write for me, and why I write for you.
Because it’s both.
I write for me because:
1. I can’t draw for shit.
2. Sometimes ideas feel like voices from another universe are speaking through my fingertips, and that if I stop typing their words, their voices will be stuck inside me and I’ll explode.
3. It is a source of concentration for me. When I’m concentrating on something, I’m at ease. I feel a sort of equilibrium that I can’t seem to find anywhere else except perhaps when I’m meditating.
4. I don’t always understand people or the social constructs they create. Making stories brings me a little closer to understanding, acceptance, and in some cases forgiveness.
5. Stories are an escape. We tell them in words and songs and dance and brushstrokes. Stories are what we use to bring ourselves closer to the infinite. I truly truly believe that.
6. I revel in the abstract and finding new combinations of our odd, exciting, ever-evolving language to describe a feeling or a sensation.
I write for others because:
1. I love inviting people into my fucked up head via any means necessary. Books are a great way to do that. They come in neat packages, can be bought and shared, and people tend to remember the good ones (or the REALLY bad ones).
2. I still believe there is plenty of money to be made in this industry, and I want a chunk of it.
3. The best thing is when someone says they haven’t read in years, but they read your book and loved it.
4. The other best thing is when someone says your work inspired them in some way. Considering it was my love of reading and books that inspired me to become a writer a long time ago, hearing those things makes me feel like the writer I always longed to be.
5. Writing for others affords me opportunities to talk to others about writing, which is one of my favorite things to talk about.
6. Getting to work with people who love the written word as much as I do, and who have made it their life’s passion, is one of the best privileges. Readers are smart, witty, and nerdy. They’re my kind of people.
So there you have it. All the reasons I write, both personally and professionally. I don’t know that I could do one without the other now. It isn’t enough for me to just write a story and put it in a drawer (though if it sucked, I would do that and I have, a lot). I have to be able to share it with others. Otherwise it just feels kind of pointless to me…