Those of us here in the States recently celebrated a bit of a national milestone, the date in which we declared our independence. Although I spent a good portion of the weekend hiding in the Northwoods chasing after children and avoiding mosquitoes, I also found a great deal of time available for sitting down a doing some (long-awaited) reading.
How fitting, then, was it that I found myself reading some literature produced by an independent author, someone who has declared themselves free of the “tyranny” of an oppressive publishing world and decided to strike out on their own, to pioneer, so to speak, this new frontier the artistic world has found itself in.
As I read this book, which just so happened to be an example of some beautifully written independent fiction called Limerence by my pal Claire Riley (who also just so happened to stop by the site and give her thoughts on Writer’s Block not so long ago), I found myself thinking of my own declaration of independence, albeit a rather quiet one. For years I struggled to gain the attention of the publishing industry, receiving very little response from anyone. I was not feeling oppressed by an tyrannical government as the revolutionaries felt back in 1772. Instead, I felt lost in a crowd of people not seeking art, but seeking the next big thing, people looking for something similar enough to recent big successes as to make their work in selling it for big dollars that much easier.
Like the founding fathers, I decided to take the route that would inevitably much more difficult than to be backed by some large publishing company and strike out on my own on a path that would be much more filled with a lack of recognition, but much more personally satisfying. In short, I made the decision to write for myself (and my readers) instead of writing to match some big book of rules on what will make the most money.
Will it pay off? Probably not. But what it does is allow me the opportunity to focus more on my writing than on trying to appease the publishing gods. It forces me to interact more with the actual readers in an attempt to garner their interest instead of hiding in a corner hoping a happy e-mail will come my way. What my independence does is allows me to write for me and not for some large faceless corporation. The similarities to the colonists who felt their work was going unnoticed and unrecognized may be thin, but they weren’t lost on me.
Too often today do artists focus on the need to be found, to be rewarded for their artistic talents. I still find myself wishing I could be in that place. However, artists today have found themselves in an amazing position that they’ve never had in the history of mankind. They can create and put their stuff out there for little to no cost to themselves and allow the world to find them. We now have the opportunity to focus on creation instead of the business aspect.
I struggle often with embracing this power, wishing that I could find some sugar-daddy of a publisher to take me under their wing and protect me from the troubles of finding an audience.
Perhaps someday they will. . . and then I’ll have to decide whether or not I wish to eat my words and succumb to their deep pockets. For now, I feel proud to know that I’m a part of something much bigger than myself, part of a group of people who will not allow themselves to be counted out merely because their work does not fit some magic formula. And I will continue to pioneer this new free world as the rest of my brethren, feeling strong in knowing that I have the freedom to create whatever I wish, and to hope that my audience feels rewarded by that freedom.
So, on this Fourth of July weekend, I found myself remembering why I should feel lucky as an independent artist. . . something I was in dire need of remembering.
Hope you all had a fun and safe weekend, whether here or abroad.