Artists are crazy. You need to be, in order to stoke the fires of humanity.
Wait. Allow me to elaborate.
I’m an artist, and Indie author. As usual, I have a bunch of projects on my plate. Too many, without a doubt, and this is really nothing new.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to stay focused. Sometimes I find myself wanting to drop one project in favor of some new and shiny idea that comes bouncing along and dares me to try it out. Like a Golden Retriever with ADD I scurry off after this squirrel of a project, completely forgetting what the hell it was I was doing until…
OH CRAP I HAVE A BOOK COMING OUT IN 2 WEEKS!!!!
So I swing back, desperate to throw together promotional posts, understanding how little time I actually have to work on writing with a demanding 50-hour per week accounting job (though, to be fair, having a house account at two bars is kinda cool…). I realize I still need to send out covers for the reveal and book blurbs, that I need to give out free copies to people helping me out and finish formatting the paperback version of the novel, that I need to get the draft of the next book onto the editing table…
…oh, yeah, and I need to write. There’s that.
Writers are a little insane. I don’t think there’s any denying it (and, to be fair, I haven’t met many writers who’d dare to try). We spend many (if not most) of our hours away from our tedious day jobs writing and editing novels; we have trouble reading a book or watching a show or even stepping outdoors without trying to find some way to blend all of that sensory input into our next story; we plan our free time, our weekends, and sometimes even our jobs around when we’ll get to work on our next book; we pour our hearts and souls and energy and minds into producing these piddly assemblies of a few thousand words knowing damn well that this will only ever be a hobby, that we’re not in this to try and get rich or become Stephen King but because we love it, because we’re addicted to it, because if we weren’t putting all of those explosive mental energies into our stories we’d probably be coming up with a plan to conquer Wisconsin or break the barrier to the 8th dimension or invent the better bowling sock.
Welcome to the world of writers. We’re all crazy here.
Have no illusions: being a self-published author is a lot of work. If you break down how much time you spend brainstorming, writing, editing, coming up with cover concepts, proofreading, social marketing, re-reading, formatting, publishing, and panicking over whether or not people will like your book or not, you end up making about 4 cents an hour. Underage factory workers in third-world countries are laughing at you.
It takes a special sort of insane to be an artist, and I use the broader term here because illustrators, musicians, comedians, dancers, and every other creative wacko out there suffers from this same malaise, this drive to expression that becomes an obsession. We all ride the pendulum, swinging back and forth. We want that crazy, the highs and lows, the rush and fears, the anxieties and the satisfactions.
Because those energies have to go somewhere. I honestly believe artists have a special spark in them, a boiling presence deep in their soul, a tortured and explosive star that’s either in the midst of a supernova or about to burst into one, except it does it all the time. Every new project, every late night spent bent in front of the keyboard or scribbling things down by hand or walking back and forth in the coffee shop talking to people who don’t exist but who happen to be half-elf strippers named Raul, every time you slap your hands together when a new idea bursts through your otherwise debilitating consciousness, every time you get that dangerous sparkle in your eyes that means you either a) have the MOST BRILLIANT IDEA EVAR!!!! or b) are about to fly into a homicidal rampage…every time that happens it’s a new star, a new supernova, a new explosion of life.
For many, that star does eventually fade. It’s fading for me even now – I don’t believe it will ever go out, not really, but as I get older and the time I spend at work and trying to take care of my family expands and my energy level at night gets less and less, I know I can’t keep up the same hectic schedule I’m used to, and while I’m still capable of being terribly productive in short bursts it takes a little more for me to want to sit down and write that blog post or work on that new project, to hit that editing goal or to organize that blog tour after I’ve already been organizing and reconciling and counting and working for ten hours, only to come home to an Autistic boy who had a bad day and a pair of beautiful ladies who for some reason like to spend time with me. There’s only so much of me to go around.
But that fire still burns. With any luck it always will.
Around this time you’re probably wondering to yourself: “Does this blog post have a point?”
It does, and it’s this: Indie artists, whether you be writers or musicians or mimes or sword swallowers or any of the other countless souls with the fires burning in you, who work ridiculous hours and pour your heart and soul into your craft, who know deep down you might never “make it” but who carry on anyways because that fire drives you, because your passion drives you, because you live and need to create, to express, to craft, know this: I admire the hell out of you. I understand what it takes, I understand what you give up, I’ve worked those hours and burned that oil and battled those demons, and still do.
We may not be job creators, but we change the world in our own way. We stoke the fires that burn in humanity’s soul. They’ve burned for a very long time, and thanks to people like us they’ll keep on burning for a long time after this.
Come with me and stare into the flames. We’ll get lost there together.
Steven Montano has been stoking the fires for over 20 years. He gets burned quite often. Check out http://steven-montano.com/ to find out more.