Artistic Freedom From a Different Perspective…

Last week I did three posts about the artistic freedom that all fiction writers have in this new world.

Artistic freedom, at its base level, means the freedom to pick your own path in fiction writing, write what you want to write for whatever reasons you want to write it, and be responsible at the same time for your own mistakes.

Artistic freedom means having the choice to try to chase a traditional big-five book deal, even though the consequences of catching that brass ring is loss of the book and massive frustration.

Artistic freedom means you can write whatever novel or story you want. You can chase markets for more money or you can chase your own dreams, or a combination of both.

There are no limits on artistic choice in this new world.

But all these choices have consequences, some only made up, some real.

And there is a big problem most writers face at one point or another. I know of no writer who is an exception. I certainly am not.

Fear of the choice. That’s the big problem.

Is it the right choice? Am I making a choice for the wrong reasons? Should I publish my most recent book even though I don’t feel happy with it? And on and on. You get the idea. Think of a choice that scares you and you have it.

Fear often leads to no choice, which is a choice.

Courage is that overused word that allows us to keep moving forward, sometimes in the face of all odds. And don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t take courage to send out a book for the public to read. Oh, trust me, it does.

But the writers who make it in the long run, not just in a few years, but over a decade or more, find the courage to pick a path, pick an artistic choice, and then move forward, even when a choice turns out to be a bad one.

I decided, in 1992, to move to writing for money. I tried to take projects I loved and got lucky with that on some. I flat hated other projects, writing only for money.

I was challenged by some projects, bored out of my mind with others.

But my driving focus for a decade was to write for money, make as much as I could to pay off Pulphouse debts, and live nicely.

I succeeded at that artistic choice. Completely. I made well past six figures year-in-and-year-out.

Until I didn’t.

The choice was a bad one in hindsight.

I killed my writing completely in ten years, almost killed my own voice, and I burnt out what makes writing fun for me.

By the end of those ten years, writing had become a chore, something I only did when a deadline and a paycheck forced me to the computer.

And if I hadn’t been rescued ten years ago by the excitement and challenge of the indie world, I would be long gone from writing, one of those writers you notice in a used book store and say, “What ever happened to…?”

And honestly, I never would have looked back. I never would have realized where I made the bad choice and what that bad choice exactly was. I never would have cared, honestly.

But because I made a second artistic choice, to come back to writing, to learn this new world, to write for only pleasure, I can now look back and see the mistake I made in 1992.

And that’s why I often tell writers to never chase a market, never write for just money. Write for the passion, the love, the fun of it. Don’t make the mistake I did. It will kill your writing.

Of course, now, after the last three years of powering on my writing for the fun of it and the four years before that of learning the business, I make more money now than I ever did writing for money. How ironic.

It seems to work that way for others as well.

But trust me, it takes courage to take the long approach, to only write for fun and to entertain yourself. It doesn’t feel valid at times. You have no way to keep score if you don’t use the sales and the money.

I keep score by the fun, by putting out title after title, by getting another issue of Smith’s Monthly out the door.

I know what I make in general because I track by the month and by the quarter and by the year, but I never look at individual book sales.

I don’t use the money anymore to add value to my writing.

My writing has value when I have fun writing it.

It really is that simple and that difficult at the same time.