What I Have Learned as an Artist and Author in 2015
Out with the old and in with the new, as they say. We are just a week away from the conclusion of 2015. What a blur it has been, a very stressful and often chaotic blur. I've been doing a lot of reflection these past few days about the meaning of all of it, the chaos that is, and my conclusion is that it has been the combination of a few factors including the shaking off of the last remaining dregs of insanity from the past three years. While the near future is yet uncertain, I do feel that the Universe has been attempting to rid itself of the left over toxins like a fever from a brutal hangover that leaves you unstable for days after the party. I am still hanging on by my fingernails in many respects, but have a strange sense of returning purpose and calm that I have not possessed in a very long time. I also know now that the success of the next year will rely on my making some important adjustments to the ways in which I approach life. The definition of insanity, as defined by Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting new results. In a nutshell that is exactly what I have been doing. Why? Because ten years ago it worked. But the world is a very different place than it was a decade ago and I am also a very different person, both as a human being and an artist.
The first realization I had this past week was my desperation to please everyone as an artist and author. This is a natural tendency for most artists, but for me it was becoming a source of frustration and anxiety. There are only so many hours in the day, and so many days in the year. And with a day job (yes, we authors still have to have a day job) and life outside of our art called the "real world", there are times when producing mass volumes of work can be daunting. I like to only produce and release my best work, and not simply something cobbled together out of the panic that someone somewhere might think I am "slacking off" and ignoring my muse. Trust me, ignoring my muse has never been an option. She shrieks in my ear constantly whether I like it or not. There's no shutting her up.
Earlier this year I finished and self-published the fourth installation of the ETERNAL VIGILANCE series through my personal press Nightshade Publications. After this I was a featured guest at several conventions attended by tens of thousands of people where I promoted my work and talked to my beloved readers and fans. For most normal, rational human beings this would have been enough of an accomplishment for the year. But not pyschotic overachiever me! Only weeks after I was on to the next manuscript at the urging of a dear friend of mine. However, life intervened and after a few months of one complication and financial disaster after another, I found myself at the brink of emotional breakdown because I was only four chapters in. Four chapters. Again, for most rational human beings this would have been another accomplishment, but for me, I felt like a failure.
And as more time passed between writing sessions the deeper the depression became until I began to wonder if I would ever write again. What would my readers think? Would they abandon me? Would I begin to lose followers on social media? Would other writers whisper behind my back about my lack of over-productivity I had become legendary for?
And then it dawned on me... It was all in my head.
I had lost sight of what it means to be an artist and an author. I had forgotten what my original passion for creating had felt like, before it was a "career" and something that the world watched and waited for. It's not like I had a multi-million dollar contract waiting for me. It's not like I was selling millions of copies of books. I, like so many authors, was out on the streets hawking my wares and begging the masses to take a chance on just one copy so I could pay my rent. Where was the glamor in that? Where was the dignity? Wasn't it better to simply create art and writing for my own pleasure and if someone was interested in it, great! And if not, then it was for me to begin with anyways. My art, my writing is not a commercial product. It is an extension of me. It is the reason I live and look forward to life. So when the machavellian self-imposed deadlines begin to crush the joy of creating, it is time to reassess the approach and take a step back to reflect.
On Facebook a few days ago I posted the following:
"When you are an author, an artist, and a musician you go through cycles of creativity. People keep asking me when the next book is coming out. Patience grasshoppers. The muses have my hands covered in art right now. Once I have exhausted this obsession for the moment I shall return to writing. But the next few weeks will be dominated by art and a bit of music."
When I hit the "post" button it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I went back to drawing and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the evening. Since then I have decided that 2016 is my year of returning to center and what truly makes me happy. Until someone waves a million dollar check in front of my face I will not chase ghost lights in the forest in the hopes of the slightest possibility that someone somewhere might have the key to open the mythical door to stardom and wealth. I will write when the muse moves me. I will draw when I desire. I will paint, dance, play music, and enjoy my creative abilities as I once did as a child, before the responsibilities of adulthood darkened the doorway, and before the attentions of audience behind social media skewed my priorities.
Of course I will still have goals for myself as a professional, but they will be fluid and without unflexible deadlines and demands. I will continue to work on the new manuscript, but out of the desire to write and not to obtain a contract. I would like to have a gallery exhibition for the new series I have been working on, but this will happen when the opportunity presents itself. I make the promise to myself not to become discouraged when Life is composed of day jobs, bills, and errands. And I will stop making myself miserable by whipping myself with unrealistic expectations.
It is time to be a true artist, a true writer, once again. And in this, I feel 2016 will become one of the most beautiful years I have experienced in a very long time. I am looking forward to it with a renewed enthusiasm and excitement and a feeling that perhaps, truly, anything will be possible.
Much love and respect to all of you. Again, I deeply appreciate all of your continued support.