This week I'm finishing up my shitty rough draft of THE BIRTHRIGHT OF PARKER CLEAVES to send to my beta readers, and I'm pretty sure it sucks and they will think less of me for reading it. Yesterday, I tried to list THE OBVIOUS GAME on a discount site, but it wasn't accepted. I suspect it's a little heavy for their genre-heavy readership, which I totally get, but it was disappointing because I could use the boost in visibility on Amazon. This year I've watched other blogger anthologies rising to heights SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK never saw when it came out. I realized a long time ago I don't have the personal following it takes to nudge my books over the echo chamber wall of who I know into the mainstream world of who I don't. It would take marketing dollars to get there, marketing dollars my publishers don't spend and I can't spend. I understand the business behind the business, but the art/business marriage keeps separate apartments.
When I get low, Beloved always says, "But you got published."
To which I retort, "But I didn't take off."
To which he responds with a frustrated stare, because he is never able to convince his ambitious and bullheaded wife that her goals are too lofty for her circumstance and abilities. Which is basically the premise of THE BIRTHRIGHT OF PARKER CLEAVES. It's something I have struggled with for years -- when my overgrown ambition does battle with my talent and financial support.
This week, BlogHer syndicated a post by Kyran Pittman, which discussed why creative people compare themselves to the superstars of their fields when accountants and bus drivers don't. She writes:
The actors who don’t get Oscar nominations, the authors whose books don’t make the bestseller lists, the songwriters who don’t go platinum, the cellists who aren’t Yo-Yo Ma -– they aren’t underachievers.
Oh, the metrics available in this world, how bone-crushing they can be. I've stopped looking at metrics more than once a week for anything -- my blog, my books, my weight. There are too many ways to measure yourself with indisputable numbers in 2013. I'm the type of person who prefers problems with no one answer. Am I a success? The numbers don't lie. But subjectively, am I a success? It depends on your perspective.
I fight every day to push away the feeling that everything I do artistically is the adult equivalent of chalk drawings on the driveway before a rainstorm.
But Kyran's right. The point isn't to matter to everybody, it's to matter to somebody, and it's my job to beat back the emails telling me I'm not doing enough to market my work and the emails trumpeting who won this or that award or made this or that bestseller list. I can't really manufacture that any more than I can force a stock to go up or down on Wall Street.
Who and how many notice the art can't be more important than the existence of art. The existence of the art has to be the point.
And so a new day starts, and I remind myself this again.