My story “Fifty Shades of Grays” made it onto the Locus best Novellas of the year, and two “best of the year” anthologies. I’d wanted to write it for many years, but the need to focus on projects that pay bigger literally loomed so large in my mind that I didn’t let myself write it.
But writing short fiction is the best and fastest way to learn, to improve your craft. And without constant improvement of expression, you devolve to a hack. A couple of years ago, I decided to cut the cord between my writing and my earning.
It isn’t that I don’t love writing. I do. It isn’t that I’ve not had a wonderful time being a professional writer. I have. And it isn’t that I won’t write just as much. Or more. I will.
It is that the “writer” part of me is about eight years old, and that little kid has been working so hard, for so long, that sometimes he forgets why he started. Pure joy, the expressions on people’s faces, to build tribe, to express himself.
Sigh. Those things mean so much more than the checks, but without the checks, there is no safe space. This is why I decided to wake up my “adult” self business-wise. An artist isn’t a businessman (unless he is). He is the creator of projects that touch his heart. Then he hopes that the circle called “art” overlaps with the circle called “commerce” sufficiently to make enough money tokeep the lights on.
If you go too far in the “business” direction you end up whoring yourself. If you go too far in the “artist” direction, you are in danger of becoming great at something no one cares about. Either direction is damaging.
But if I understand the entire range of human actions that relate to “business”: marketing, sales, innovation, communication, customer service, and so forth, I can see how “art” fits in there, and can separate out the “adult/business” aspects and literally work at them separately.
Remembering at every moment that the only reason to do this is to create a safe place for my “child” to play. That if I do that, he will feel safe telling the truth, and will produce better, more powerful work.
Which, to close the circle, might even make a few “best of the year” lists.
Just maybe, my plot is working.