Monday, April 3, 2017

How Can a Starving Artist Experience Life?

Ireland! Land of the Blarney Stone and leprechauns and redheads. And… drunks. And Dillan Moran. That’s about it.

My goal for a happier life is to prevent the merging of time, to be able to separate some days from others, some months, some years. I’m celebrating holidays, pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and attempting to travel more. So, I’m spending the next ten days in Ireland.

Problem is, I’m pretty poor right now. Not in the sense that many of my friends and peers are; I still have means to get money in a pinch. I don’t have a lot of bills, only myself to support, and I am aware of certain freedoms available to me that many truly starving artists aren’t afforded.

Many of my Facebook friends are mothers or fathers using their writing to supplement an income for their family. They work a minimum wage job—that they’re usually not fond of—then come home to their kids and husband—who’s also working a crap job he’s not fond of—worry about bills, spend time with the family to then put them to bed and stay up late to write, get up early to write, take time to promote themselves, find a moment to go to a writer’s group, dig up money for advertisements and editing and cover art and formatting and copyright and promotional travel and a whole bunch of shit that can really add up.

I figured that if I ever decide to go the self-publishing route, I would need a minimum of 6,000 dollars for a start-up cost. This is more than what most would spend on it, of course, but while there are many editors and artists out there that can work cheaply, it more or less shows. In contrast, most big publishers spend at least 50,000 dollars on each title, excluding advances for the author. I believe you can find talented people cheaply, even for free, but vetting them, not to mention finding them, takes a lot of risk and energy whereas things tend to go better if you just pay people what their effort is actually worth.

As I’ve stated prior, I’m struggling with rejuvenating my interest in writing. Something about the publishing/submission process has sucked out a little bit of light for me, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps the circularity in it; you write something, you edit it, you write something else, you edit both. You give them out to people and write something else. You revise and cut and add and read and reread to then work on your pitch. Then you rework your pitch. Then you have to decide if you take the pitch you like the best or the one that matches with expectation the best. Then you do your research on agents and then you submit and then you hear nothing back like you’ve kind of expected because you’ve already read all about what it’s like.

And then you do it again.

Submitting is the hard part. The boring part. I rather just write. And yet, in a way, seeing the reality that many of my books will never be in hard form on a bookshelf makes it more difficult to get excited for the next.

Right now I’m far more interested in my violin than I am writing. I could play it until my hands cramp up for the next five days.

But all that brings me to the obvious: I am allowing myself to be “irresponsible” with my money by prioritizing experiences and opportunities over practicality. In some ways, it feels right for me because of my past depression and tendency to retreat from life. While in Australia, in the thick of my misery, it was my parents coming to see me and taking me on a vacation across the country that really made me understand how I didn’t have to be like that. Free to explore, away from the negativity that was my life, I understood more about what I was really looking for.

But what about starving artists who are truly broke? They don’t have family capable of spoiling them or help them out of a jam if shit hits the fan. They have a family that’s counting on them. They can’t afford to move even if it would mean better money in the long run. They don’t have an extra padding of a few thousand dollars to be unemployed for. They can’t take a hit of severe piracy. They can’t take time off from work or their kids. They can’t afford the fair price of a good editor. They can’t afford to buy a shit violin, let alone classes, to fix their sewing machine, to pay for gas on a long road trip.

Aristotle is not someone I would consider the voice of artists—a biologist, he treated playwrighting exactly as you’d expect, dissecting and defining formulas that some teacher still adore to this day. But he claimed that art is a reflection of life, an imitation of humanity. Many say you have to live it to talk about it, and as someone who has made herself physically ill through isolation, I would agree.

I’ve lived a perfunctory, monkish life, “cutting the fat” off of what is absolutely necessary, and I just can’t recommend it. Devoting yourself to constantly writing, shaming yourself for being social, or refusing to allow for immediate pleasures can suck the inspiration and joy right out of you. Or even the misery. Emotions are where relatability comes from, expressing those emotions well are what readers are looking for.

Summed up. I’m in Ireland. I can’t afford it. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have just a little financial slack. But hopefully I can take some pictures and get myself inspired. Maybe even use it as a tax write off. And remember that while I feel guilty for being free to be irresponsible, those who have families and lives much different than mine still have things that I don’t.

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