There is an article in The Atlantic regarding the change in artists’ identities and how they function in society, and how that has changed over time: The Death of the Artist – and the Birth of the Creative Entrepeneur. The writer put his finger eloquently on something that has been bothering me about the social media world of writers.
(I can think of several writers as I compose this whose work I greatly admire. Just wanted to say that before I went any further. If you’re reading this, chances are I think you’re great.)
In summary, there was a transition, over long periods of time, of artists going from being considered conduits of the divine, to being craftsmen and professionals, to the currently-evolving model of the entrepreneur, wherein
every endeavor becomes “creative” and everybody “a creative…”
There is much I love about being an indie writer: utter freedom of expression, the independence of creativity and publication, and the autonomy for every decision. The creative outlet has introduced a sense of play and fun to writing that I haven’t experienced since I was 11, handing a friend my handwritten adventure story on the school bus.
What I don’t love is self-promotion. I have a Twitter account for my pen name, but I hardly ever read the newsfeed (and I love Twitter; for my main account, see the sidebar!) because it’s all writers. And I find it utterly boring. Here is a sample of my feed. Just randomly. Can these really sell books? (Well, that Carolyn Keene one does sound good, now that I’m taking a good look at it….)
The democratization of taste, abetted by the Web, coincides with the democratization of creativity. The makers have the means to sell, but everybody has the means to make.
I just find it all kind of distasteful, and it’s not that I’m above it (hello, I have a blog where I talk about myself, and two Twitter accounts), but it’s not how I want to be a writer. I think this is where some indie writers would say, “Well, then, you shouldn’t be self-publishing. You can go sit on your high horse and submit to publishers and let them do the marketing for you.”
I don’t think it’s that black-and-white, though. I like the freedom of being able to put my stories up, and let them do what they will. Amazon’s algorithms may help or hurt me in the long run (so far? Helping!), but for the most part, they will live and die by their own merits.
I’m so okay with this, I can’t tell you. I love the nice reviews, yes (see previous post), but I am also okay with my fiction being read by random people I’ll never meet. That’s what being published means to me – not pushing my books on people who don’t care about them. (And it’s actually a little stressful when people I do know read them; I have to forget about them to keep writing!)
I don’t know how much Salinger actually wrote when he stopped publishing (and I’m not in the mood to research it at the moment), but I always loved the idea he painted in my mind of a writer creating something, and putting it in a desk drawer.
In the modern world, the natural progression seems to be either from self-published to big-house pub, or the other way around…. I see my progression as self-publishing until I’ve had enough of what other people think, and then becoming a reclusive writer hoarding my stories all for myself.
I guess my purpose as a writer is different from my generation’s on the whole, though. People want to write as a business, for external validation and/or support, and to make a living off of their writing. I gave up on that idea long ago, knowing it wasn’t for me… but I started writing again because I wondered what I would most like to do in retirement – and that was to write novels: not life-changing, but fun and entertaining escapist novels, that I would work on for a bit in the morning before heading out to work in my garden or teach a seniors yoga class.
Since that is my dream end-point, marketing seems especially silly. I’m just getting an early start on my retirement job, is all.