When I finally ventured out and made first contact with my writing peers, I received a lot of good solid, advice about the craft and business of writing. The craft parts were easier to swallow, particularly back in the bad old days when writers had so few choices. Why spend too much time dwelling on a business model that made no sense? Like the newbies that came before me, I had a hard time believing them, so I focused on the stuff I wanted to believe.
I dreamed about that day when I’d get The Call (instead, it was The Email). I imagined how it would feel to cross the threshold from aspiring to published. There would be trumpets. Perhaps some flower petals strewn in my path. And if not petals, then praise. Lots of praise. I’d be heaped with it.
*shakes head ruefully*
There is something wondrous and a bit magical about making that journey from the beginning to the end of your very first novel. Good, indifferent, bad, seriously awful—it doesn’t matter. It’s done. It’s an accomplishment to be celebrated before reality bites. Really. Celebrate fast. Because reality bites.
Obviously, for an author, reality is not our go-to place.
I look back with some awe at the naivety of that long ago, newly minted author. And I miss her a little. No matter how many novels I’ve written since, it has never felt quite like that. I wrote that first novel for me. I thought it would be easier the next time. Yeah.
But filtered into the many (make that very many) hard lessons of becoming a published author was this difficult truth: it was easier to write for free than for money.
I really hate admitting this. I thought it would be easier to write for money. I thought getting paid would make the Muse happy. Money means readers and I love it when readers love what I write. But when I sit down to write a new novel, the specters around me aren’t those readers. Like Prince Charming in Sleeping Beauty, I have to fight my way through thickets of business thorns and naysaying dragons to find my sleeping story, to wake my storyteller.
If I didn’t have an overactive imagination, I wouldn’t be a writer.
Artists have always struggled with reconciling their creative lives with the commerce required if they want to reach past their immediate circle of family and friends. There are some who don’t even try. And I don’t blame them. Some are lucky enough to have someone else handle the commercial side for them. The rest of us “deal.”
I’m in the “have to deal” column. I am the sole proprietor of my publishing business. Part of my job is to keep the writer writing. While keeping the business running. Most days it feels like I have multiple personality disorder. Not only do I have characters rampaging through my brain, but author and proprietor are duking it out in there, too. Last month I spent several days trying to untangle the mysteries of keywords at Amazon. I figured it out. I’m stubborn that way, but my creativity was a wan skeleton of its pre-keyword-solving self. If it had been in the ER, it would have been a Code Blue.
Even though I’ve fought this battle over and over, I’m attempting to “manage” my writing business more effectively since I became a self publisher. So I’m trying to track my high/low creative time to better maximize it. I don’t have a place on my chart, however, for driving a stake through my creativity with my own two hands.
I could resolve to never do that again, but I also need my business-self to manage this monster I’ve created. To extend the Sleeping Beauty metaphor, I’m balancing on a high wire over the thorns and dragons and some critics in there hoping I’ll jump.
There are times when I’ve had to apply the paddles to my creative heart. Yes, there is creative life after keywords, but the Muse is still a little bitter.
To cure what ails the Muse, I start by applying my favorite “vice” (Chocolate and Diet Dr. Pepper). When more drastic measures are needed, I go all the way back to my writing roots. I can’t become that starry-eyed newbie again, but I can remember, I can tap in to what propelled me into becoming a writer in the first place:
1. A love of stories and storytelling. Sometimes this means browsing through the novel keeper shelf for well-loved scenes and the words that delighted. Spending some time with those that became so real, I still miss them. Reminding myself that ultimately I write to tell stories. That is the truth from which every other part of my writing business flows. If I don’t love what I’m doing, no one will love reading it. So love it or stop. And since I can’t stop …
2. Keeping track of activities that recharge my creativity. In addition to books and food, there are movies and music that revive my Muse. Sometimes I have to dance, to play, to be silly (don’t worry, I don’t do it in public). Sometimes I pull out a jigsaw puzzle. For some reason putting one together can help me order my plot puzzle. Or make me frustrated enough that writing seems easier.
3. Daydreaming. Sometimes I step away from the desk (keeping my hands where they can be seen) and do totally non-writing related stuff. This frees my brain for playful thinking. I turn my imagination loose, let it get crazy (well, crazier). The goal is driving my business self into the fetal position in some other part of my brain. (Trust me, it’s fine. It’s tough as nails.)
4. Tame the promo beast. Yes, you need to be “out there,” but everyone—and I do mean everyone—says the best promotion is writing the next book. Never lose sight of this essential truth. You want to be a writer, so write. If the book won’t come, write blogs, lists, in the margins—whatever it takes to get words flowing again. Then write some more.
It took me a while to realize that the biggest part of my job as proprietor is to protect and defend the writer. I’m much more vigilant than I used to be, but sometimes business must be done, whether the Muse likes it or not (usually not). So I keep my repair list close and apply as needed.
Do you struggle with irreconcilable differences between your proprietor and your Muse? How do you cope?
COMMERCE & CREATIVITY—HOW TO KEEP THE BALANCE by @paulinebjones http://goo.gl/wlN50q #TheArtistUnleashed #IndieAuthors #selfpublishing
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Pauline Baird Jones is the award-winning author of sixteen novels—and some short stories—of science fiction romance, steampunk, action-adventure, suspense, romantic suspense and comedy-mystery. (She did mention there’s a lot going on inside her head.) Her latest release—and the launch of her Uneasy Future series, is Core Punch: A Baker & Ban!drn Adventure. Originally from Wyoming, she and her family moved from New Orleans to Texas before Katrina.
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