Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Your Writer's Platform

Here I shall stand upon my Writing Platform, doing…er, writing platform-y things…Vote for me based on my platform, and I'll give you four years of awesome.

Or not.

Being an unpublished writer has its drawbacks. I don't have any material to push in order to say "buy from me!" I don't have my VOTE FOR ME pamphlet that I hand out to all yous guys. I feel if I had even one tiny insignificant piece pub'd somewhere any-goddamned-where then it would be easier to sell me. The writing "me" as a persona could then be traded, and promoted.

This is most obvious when I submit to pro and semi-pro markets that ask for a cover letter (usually listing your publishing credits) with a short bio. I've had a helluva time writing my bios. They're damned excruciating considering that most editors are looking for 1) a sentence or two about what makes you mildly interesting as a human being, and 2) your most recent and/or most impressive publishing credits.

I ain't got none of those, kids. (And no this isn't a pity party…Okay, maybe a little).

And I feel like I need at least four or five different bios based on whatever genre I'm submitting. I try and inject a little humor and/or sarcasm into my bios no matter the genre, because hot damn, that's who I am at heart. I've finally got my crap together and instead of altering a single bio each time, I'm writing and saving about five different ones. Dark Fantasy and Horror? Evil hell-yea. Science Fiction and Fantasy? Sindarin word for yes. The couple of Light Romances I've written? Sexy yes-OH GOD YES. Literary with the barest whisper of SF? Of course, I'm glad you inquired.  

I'm selling me. And it's hard. Because I'm not a brand yet. I'm not even sure what my brand is. Do I have a voice specific to me? Do I have a style? I'm sure I do. But I'm not certain what the hell that is yet. I feel like my persona is splintered between whatever genres and subgenres I'm writing in and exploring. It's like I've got multiple personalities, and they're all struggling with what façade to put forward in order to sell sell SELL!

There are venues to try promoting yourself out there. Hello, my old friend the Internet! But again, it's difficult if you've got squat to sell. My granpappy always told me I could get by on ma' charm and personality, and man am I tryin'. At some point I plan to have a real live legit website, all tricked out and purdy, because I've seen some terribly designed websites for authors before. There's actually one paying horror market I refuse to send work to because their website is such a unprofessional looking mess that it makes me cringe. Hopefully, I know enough HTML (and IT Crowd types to help me) and have enough aesthetic sense to put together something clean, good-looking, and easy to use.

In the meantime the best thing I can do is to work on is the writing itself. And send more stories out into the submission aether. And deal with rejection woes. And then write even more after that.


This topic brought to you by the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, where other profesh-n'-noobie writers are all standing up on that platform. I'm sure they're not gonna' fall off. I'd VOTE FOR THEM. Really, I would. Your Candidate for tomorrow's tomorrow is Senator Gilroy Cullen over at Swords vs. Pens (The Senator part is really more of a honorary title, I'm sure). 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Ukulele: A Lesson in Writing


Recently, I decided rather on a whim to buy a ukulele.

Because my varied interests aren't quirky enough.

I'll admit that I've been thinking for some time of picking one up. I mean, every time I'd see one it would make me giggle. Giggle. Not only is it cute and ridiculously small, they also come in eye-searing colors and the occasional one shaped like a pineapple or other fruit. Like a watermelon.

Aside from the fact that they make me smile, I'm familiar enough with music and musical instruments to realize that yes, you have to put time and effort into learning it. Granted, I've only had my relatively inexpensive Makala Dolphin soprano uke for about two months. I can already strum a handful of tunes.

The point is that I'm seeing music--and by extension my writing--in a different light again.

The ukulele by nature begs to not to be taken seriously. Four nylon strings. An undeniably pleasant sound. All of this in a world of popular music that's sometimes heavy on perfect electronic sounds, autotune, and a ridiculous amount of instruments and layers and layers of sound.

The ukulele has forced me to pare down what I think of when I look at a piece of music. To see its bare bones. To see the piece for what it is, or was in the hands of another musician. To see what it could become if slower, or faster. Strummed rather than plucked, or vice versa. To work with my voice, rather than against it. It's hard for a uke to drown out other instruments or someone's singing voice. To work within the bounds of my current skill set--and to see where it can be taken beyond.

Even Jake Shimaburkuro, a uke virtuoso (yes, just watch this, seriously), says that there would be more peace in the world if only everyone played ukulele.

I watched him say in a video that it's easy to see those four little strings as limiting, that you always want more strings, more sound, more more more. "If you know what you're trying to say, or what you're trying to communicate, then sometimes you can just do it with three strings rather than four."

The uke has helped me see that it's not the instrument that's limiting, it's your mindset. The instrument is just that--the tool, the object of where you focus your emotional energy to convey what you want to say.

It's made me look at my writing styles, and the way in which I present my voice. To see the bones of what I do, or what I'm trying to convey. Sometimes that means simplifying. Editing heavier. Sometimes that means switching up genres, trying genres I've shied away from for various reasons. With short stories (I'm really a more of a novel writer), it's showing me how to get to the point in a small amount of space, to pare down the conflict to its most important parts.

To use just four strings. 5,000 words in a short story. Or 500 in a blog post.

And most of all: HAVE FUN. 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What Other Blogs Do You Read?

Blogs. Blogs. Bloggie blogs. They're everywhere. I'll admit that there are few blogs I actually read anymore. Gone are my days of absorbing the business-industry-sacrifice-a-unicorn to get published type advice. I used to keep track of literary agents, and publishers, and the Great Mojo of Agent Queries, Miss Snark.

I don't read those anymore.

One, because the publishing industry is changing faster than I can give a two shits about  keep up. Two, because I'm beyond the simple show-but-don't-tell type writing advice. Three, because many of them say the same thing. Four, because traditional publishing is really freakin' depressing.

So what are the regular blogs I keep track of?

Aside from reading the travails of my fellow noobs, unpublished and published authors (on the MGR), few of them are writing blogs (really, Paperback Writer is the only one). Instead, I like to dick around on the internet expand my horizons to other things that interest me.

1. Global Table Adventure

Food. International foodies read it. Read it so hard. It's written with such passion and sweet innocence for food and the countries that food comes from. Just a mom with a vision to create 195 weeks of food from each country every week. And with a picky toddler and a Mr. Picky Husband in tow. I've made numerous dishes from these recipes, and have enjoyed every one of them.  

2. Apartment Therapy

I never thought I'd get to the age where I'd give a crap about what my living space looks like. Seeing as I don't live in a dorm room anymore, and no longer have that sweet Fight Club poster as décor, and I rent my space...well, I want where I live not only to be comfortable, but to express me and all the me-ness of me. AP has neato DIY projects for small spaces, and spotlights unique rented spaces that don't look like they'd be on the cover of Uncomfortable Shit You Buy For Your Stepford Wife's House Magazine. Although there is the occasional apartment walkthrough that looks like it'd be in Trendy New York Hipster Magazine.

3. Colossal

Colossal appeals to the part of me that loves visual art (I just signed up for an online life drawing class). Not only visual art, but strange and wildly different as well wacky art installations. Frequently, the piece exhibited for the day/week is made in a unique medium. My favorite has been the porcelain artist that makes bowls that appear as if they're made of splashing liquid.

So my little ones, what bloggos do you follow?

Brought to you by the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour (P.S. you should be reading this blog).


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

HELP! Help My Creative Process

POST THE NAME OF A SONG

This March, I asked some pals to give me a song, and I'd write a short story. I'm not really a strong or frequent short story writer, so any and all shorts I write makes it feel a little like a victory.

Being part of FM Writers "Great Rejection Slip Contest" has really goaded me into writing more shorts, if anything to get more of my work out there in the traditional publishing world. My fellow Rejection Slip Contest players have also inspired me to aim high as far as the publishing world, so I'm getting over many of my self-imposed restrictions that my writing isn't ready for the big time. My motto now is to submit and let them decide, rather than to decide for them by never sending it in.

However, because my creative process is a bit wonky, in that pretty much every single thing I write has come about because of a song I was into at the time, I'm going to ask for help.

My music tastes run the gamut. A playlist of mine can go from bluegrass to opera, from jazz funk to old school Delta blues, and 80's metal hair bands all sorts of indie weirdo folk fusion stuff.

So, my puppies...

Help my creative process! So's I can haz more short stories to send to publications.

POST THE NAME OF A SONG that you've recently discovered and are totally into. If you're extra cool, you can give me YouTube linky-love, but I will hunt any strange song down with all of my Google-Fu skills if you just give me the title.

So far others have suggested:

"Mad World" the cover by Gary Jules (story done)
"Cigarettes and Coffee" by Otis Redding
"Star Trek + NIN Closer Mashup" by er, Gene Roddenberry and Trent Reznor

Edited to add suggestions:
"We Are the Dead" by David Bowie (working on this one)
"Don't You (Forget About Me)" cover by KT Tunstall.

So, give me a shout out my pepperpots.








Saturday, February 22, 2014

Villainous Villainy

Recently, I read one of the best blurbs from Sir Anthony Hopkins: "I don't play villains, I play people."

I've always struggled with villains. I could never quite get into their heads. I frequently shy away from writing from the POV of any villain. Fear on my part? Yes. I always worry I'll ruin them by suddenly growing a liking for them. Which of course is a little stupid. Better villains are the ones that are close to you, mentally all up in yo' headspace.

For this blogo-post, the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour (or as a blog reader calls it "Writer Roulette") topic is to showcase one of my own villains.

Meet Dr. Conrad Frost. He's dead in the first chapter. Murdered.

In a early Victorian-era full of automatons and empaths, Dr. Frost set his sights upon the burgeoning field of psychology, testing his theories of the mind by--inventing an human-like automaton with the full range of emotions given to any true person. Raising the automaton, William, side-by-side with his son, Horatio Frost, he aims to allow his creation the time to become an adult with needs and wants and free will. To ultimately become a real person.

Before he sets out to destroy his creation's sanity, using his son as a baseline.

Though I never wrote from the POV of Dr. Frost, I very much wanted him to have a valid reason for being such a cold, calculating father figure. He's manipulative, domineering, obsessively focused on his goals, is impatient and dismissive, has ridiculously high standards, and genuinely assumes that most people are intellectually beneath him--because they frequently happen to be.

But he also genuinely loves his son, though he's unable to express it properly. He's devastated and ultimately driven in everything he does by the knowledge that his wife committed suicide due to her empathic abilities. He wants to find the key to empathic mental illness so no one will die the way his wife did. And in the course of things, he's torn between treating the automaton William like a person and true son, and continuing with his all-consuming experiment.

Dr. Frost was one of the first antagonists I tried to write while not being afraid to delve into his more sympathetic qualities, while giving him qualities that I admired. Of course, things are still in the early stages of writing, so he may not come across as dynamic as I think he does (but I love every moment he's on the page ruining things).

Anyone else have problems with less than dynamic villains? Do you love stories with villains or do you prefer stories where the main conflict-baddie is more insubstantial than one person?

This post brought to you by the Snidely Whiplash Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Mwha-ha-ha with a dozen writers from all across the global, scheming to take over the world! Next up on the tour is Sith Lord Gilroy Cullens at Swords vs. Pens (No Light Sabers).

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Deleted Material: Dead Weight?

One of my favorite things to see in movies is all of the deleted material, including deleted scenes and alternate endings, and director's cuts. Why? Because you get to see a rougher version of the end result. And it makes me happy that everyone who has ever done anything creative has deleted stuff. It makes my hesitation to hit the cut button feel less like a panic attack.

DELETE.

Ctrl + Z. Undo! Undo! Bring it back!

Some things should be deleted. Cut. Excised.

In Disney's Aladdin, instead of the main character being a street-rat-riff-raff orphan young adult, in the original draft he was a young 8-10 year old with a single, poor mother who was disappointed in him for stealing things. The executive at the studio nixed the idea (and for good reason).

Famous painters have historically painted over parts of their work that they thought were crappy, or re-used canvas and other materials that had half-done bits on them. Throwaways. Picasso's "The Old Guitarist" apparently started as an old woman rather than a bent old man. Van Gogh's "Patch of Grass" was originally a portrait of a woman, seen by art experts by fancy high-tech x-rays.

I've also painted over, or otherwise destroyed my own paintings. There have been a couple I've crumpled up and thrown in the garbage. Then again, I still have sketch work I did in grade school (and I'm no Picasso or Van Gogh).

Sometimes you need to start from a fresh, new perspective. And then again, sometimes the deletion is a mistake. Or at least it feels like one. Sometimes you're too close to it and are only seeing the warts, so the instinct is to toss out the baby with the bathwater.

Dang babies mucking up perfectly good bathwater.

I'm still fighting with learning when to trunk stories, when to let them rest, and when to do some serious operation-don't-hit-the-sides-or-you'll-buzz-and-lose. When to re-use a portion, and when a scene really really is dead weight and needs a double tap in the forehead.  

Have you ever deleted or scrapped a project that you shouldn't have?

This topic brought to you by the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, where [DELETED for cursing involving the words 'kick-ass'] authors from all across the globe bring you their ideas and head-stuff on the same topic each week. Next up is [DELETE! DELETE! Cybermen shall DELETE!] Gilroy Cullens at Swords vs. Pens [DO NOT DELETE].

Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Pimpin': The Havoc Machine

Sometimes I forget that instead of nitpicking at a book or movie that was so-so and that makes me do that meh-face, or kvetching about my own writing, that I should, you know, like, squee about books I recently read and that made me squee.

Did I say squee?

Um, ahem. I don't squee. Never squee.

Thou shalt not squee.

Oh, who am I kidding? OhMyGodI'mGonnaSquee. Hashtag it. Or something. It's what the kids are doin' these days right? Smoking hashtags?

Anyway, my latest SqueeBook is The Havoc Machine by Steven Harper.



Obligatory blurb:

In a world riddled with the destruction of men and machines alike, Thaddeus Sharpe takes to the streets of St. Petersburg, geared toward the hunt of his life…. 
  
Thaddeus Sharpe’s life is dedicated to the hunting and killing of clockworkers. When a mysterious young woman named Sofiya Ekk approaches him with a proposition from a powerful employer, he cannot refuse. A man who calls himself Mr. Griffin seeks Thad’s help with mad clockwork scientist Lord Havoc, who has molded a dangerous machine. Mr. Griffin cares little if the evil Lord lives or dies; all he desires is Havoc’s invention. 
  
Upon Thad’s arrival at Havoc’s laboratory, he is met with a chilling discovery. Havoc is not only concealing his precious machine; he has been using a young child by the name of Nikolai for cruel experiments. Locked into a clockwork web of intrigue, Thad must decipher the dangerous truth surrounding Nikolai and the chaos contraption before havoc reigns….

What was Squee-worthy: 

Thaddeus Sharpe is a fantastic protagonist, and one that anyone who has dealt with loss of a loved one can identify with. He's smart, capable, and a hero who's not afraid to use knives. He's also outwardly singularly focused on revenge, but like all good books, he wonders and second-guesses himself along the way. What sealed it for me is his relationship with the young-boy, Nikolai, and his internal struggle with not seeing this new addition to his life as the son he lost.

Add in spider-machines running amok, the dangerous court of Tsar Alexander full of intrigue and executions, the famous big-top family of the clockwork circus, and the madness of clockworker geniuses given their genius with a deadly plague...and you have a mix for a good read.

The Havoc Machine is a rocking good time in an intriguing steampunk world.

This is the fourth (and yet standalone) book in the Clockwork Empire series. Seriously read the others, i.e. The Doomsday Vault, The Impossible Cube, The Dragon Men.

P.P.S: No, I'm not getting paid, bribed, or otherwise Chinese-finger-trap tortured, or under duress to promote this. Though if you want to I do accept bribes in the form of money. And food. And did I mention money?

Linky Love: Amazon!   Barnes & Noble



Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sci-Fi Is Not A Dirty Word

Say it with me, kids.

"Sci-fi" is not a dirty word.

Really. Trust in your Overlord.

Okay, so I know I'm not the first or last person/writer/blogger/Evil Overlord to discuss this term in detail. Maybe even ad nauseum. Old school writer, and all around bad-ass Harlan Ellison had some things to say about the term sci-fi and science fiction, involving cuss words (color me surprised) and the word "loathe."

I think that early writers of science fiction struggled to have their work seen as, you know, real literature with a good, paying market full of fans with half a brain. Even now, sometimes people will shy away from a genre that they claim to dislike solely based on what they see as the parameters of the genre. I recently had a devout non-science fiction reader tell me that she absolutely enjoyed The Hunger Games. I had to tell her the dystopian futures with a Big Brother overlord was in my not-so humble opinion, firmly in the realm of what she claimed to dislike.

So, why do writers shy away and utterly loathe the term "sci-fi"?

I think in an effort to distance themselves from what they perceived as the "non-serious literature" in the genre, that they slapped the term "sci-fi" onto anything and everything that seemed low brow. That Science Fiction was finally pure, and high, and literary, and that piddling Sci-Fi was low, and crass, and obviously fluff. The sci-fi is fluffy Space Operas with Green Chicks with Three Boobs, and Star Trek Let's Turn a Mirror on Our Society, and Star Wars Obviously Fantasy Magic Based Farm Kid With Powers IN SPACE, and An Alien Human Looking Two-Hearted Time Lord in a Time Machine and all those Pulp mags with weird alien encounters and robots. Sci-fi was very obviously to be separated from everything else.

That is bullshit.

Repeat it, kids. Bullshit.

You know why? Because low-crass-fluff is also awesome. All those things I just described, even if they're also in the realm of TV Land are beloved by millions. It's the same damn nerd and geek kids who buy plastic Sonic Screwdrivers that are reading Asimov, and Wolfe, and Brin, and Bear. And if they aren't, they'll likely find their way there by the ever expanding society of nerdists.

"Ah, but B.C.," you say, "what about the term Speculative Fiction?"

Despite the fact that Speculative Fiction is hard to say, and makes it sound like you're muttering about speculums and your last papsmear, it does encompass a lot. Not just Science Fiction heavy on the science part, or Sci-Fi, but also Fantasy and allllll of the numerous subgenres and sub-subgenres and sub-sub-subgenres of both.

Do I use the term "sci-fi" really?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Nope.

Er, I mean...I use it when I'm nerding. I've been using it since I was little, and I don't see myself stopping anytime soon. I use it to describe books, film, and television. I use it because it kicks as much ass as I think it does.

However, I don't use it in "da' bidness" of writing. It marks you as an amateur sometimes, or at least that's the sense I get. Oh, you said you're a sci-fi writer? Uh-huh. Reeeeally professional.


So, what do you think? Does it matter what we call it?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 In Review, 2014 To Kick Ass

Ah, so the big 2013 is now over and we usher in the New Year with 2014.

Where are my flying cars? Hell, screw flying. Where are the cars that drive themselves so I can take a nap on my commute to the Day Job? Seriously, I needs ma' beauty sleep people. Make it so, Captain.

So, in the writing scheme of things, 2013 was an excellent year for me getting my writing shtick together and taking it seriously. Like an unpaid second job. Like a mutha'effin' boss. Now that I've been in RL doing Day Job type stuff for a while, it's taught me how to view submitting my stories in a professional, organized manner, treating it the way I do in handling clients. Also at the Day Job I got to write a mass rejection letter for applicants to a job we were hiring for, so it was really weird being on the giving rather than receiving end. However, like all rejection letters it started with 'Thank you for--'

In fact, my emails through my tablet give me the first few words of the email, and I can always tell when I've received a rejection. It starts: Thank you for submitting. If I see that I know it's a bust. Secretly, the little devil on my shoulder hates seeing the words 'Thank you for.'

At least it's not like the SubPop Records rejection letter, which is famous for starting as: Dear Loser.

So here's a rundown of stuff that happened writing wise:

·        Partial re-write and edits of 2012's NaNo steampunk novel, Blood and Brass. I put this project on hold to work on 2013's NaNo, but will continue after I finish the first draft of the below project.
·        Half the first draft of NaNo 2013's SF novel, No Working Title ('cause I suck at titles, but I've been calling it Burn Notice in Space). Still working on this one as we speak.
·        With the two novels plus rewrites the word count for the year is: 320,000.
·        Submitted short story Othervoice on the Rails: submitted 4 times, received 3 personal rejections, and 1 form rejection. I revised this one in a DayQuil induced haze, and sent it out to another place this morning. I still think it's good, and it was one of the stories I truly allowed myself to write weird.
·        Submitted short story Into His Brass Heart to Steampunk Romance anthology, editor held on for a looong time before I received this personal rejection on New Year's Eve: "You can probably tell by the amount of time we've held the story that we think it is a strong one, but ultimately we felt it did not fit the balance of the anthology. Best of luck for your current projects, and I hope we see more of your writing in the future." I'll admit I was super-duper bummed about this one, and I have no idea where to sub this to next. This one was a learning experience because I've never written something purely romance before (sure I use small romance subplots, which I'm still not great at, but this was different).
·        Submitted short story The Star-Tailed Fox to top-o'-the-line magazine, received a form rejection. This one was a stretch and I knew it. I plan on revising lightly and sending out to a couple of places in 2014.
·        Submitted short story The Honored Daughter to an insect-themed anthology, received a form rejection. Again, I knew this one was a bit of a stretch. Not sure if I'll send it out again.

Daytime Telly Afterschool Special what-I-learned:

          Oh, kids. I learned a lot. Cue rainbow-and-star The More You Know whoosh. In previous years, let's say the last six, I've only written one completely edited novel (with critique), one first draft novel, and submitted one humor short story.
          Since then I've been determined to expand my prolific-ness, and to stretch my skills by taking risks.

·        I now write every day. Even if it's only for 15 minutes, and in fact, 15 minutes is my bare minimum regimen. Writers write, and like exercising for a 5K, you have to exercise every day. No excuses (barring physical illness of this stupid mortal body). In fact, if I don't write at all in anyway shape or form, I feel completely lost. Like I've left the kettle on and the gas back at home.
·        Novel writing is my first love and where my strengths lie (lay? lying? Obviously it's not grammar). But writing short stories has expanded on a different part of the craft. It's been fun. I believe my short story writing skills at this point, based on all of the personal rejection letters, are at the good but not quite there point. Not sure how to step it up to the next level other than to keep on keepin' on.
·        Submitting is a whole 'nuther ball of wax, and a hard learning experience. Finding the best places to submit short stories to is like doing a Day Job research project. Hey at least I get paid for it at the Day Job. Right now I'm only submitting to paying markets, as I find even the best for-the-love markets a little potentially dodgy.
·        Try something new. I know, sounds obvious. But I think I'd boxed myself into a safe little corner. I had shied away from letting the brain roam to wild-weird places. By not completely restraining my impulses, I came up with some extremely freeing pieces of work. Dark pieces, bizzaro pieces, sweetly romantic pieces, not-so-sweet romantic bits, gritty bits, slipstream pieces, a lot of genre bending, and yeah, I'm still working on the whole humor angle.

Things to do in 2014:
·        Polish novel(s).
·        Get novel(s) critiqued.
·        Get ready to submit novel(s) to lit agents in 2015. Which will mean writing queries, and synopses for the first time.
·        In March, do the whole "Give me a song, and I'll write a story" thing that worked out so well last year. Make this a yearly March thing.
·        Sub out more shorts.
·        Try flash fiction, even though it gives me headaches to write that short.
·        Find a way to make this blog more entertaining, both to me and to readers.
·        Leave more comments on other people's blogs. Because I read them a lot, oh yes I do, but I rarely comment. Which is stupid.
·        Stop cursing so much fuck that.
·        Use more bullet points, and write shorter posts.

Hope 2013 was awesome for you, and a tip of the hat to 2014.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Responsibility of Artists

The other day whilst at the Day Job, I had a co-worker ask me an incredibly, hugely philosophical question rather out of the blue. The conversation went something like this:

Co-worker: Hey, so you're an artist.
Me: *snorts* I wouldn't call myself that, but okay.
Co-worker: You know, you're a creative type. Writing and painting.
Me: Um, yeah. 'Suppose so.
Co-worker: So, I have a question I want to ask.
Me: 'Kay.
Co-worker: What would you say is the responsibility of an artist to the world? Or you know, society?
Me: *incredibly long pause, full of shocked blinking* Umm, that's a huge freakin' question. Like...huge.
Co-worker: Yep.
Me: *blinking some more while I think on the fly* I don't think an artist really owes anything to the world. You know, like, changing it or anything. Or you know, instilling world peace or something. Umm...
Co-worker: *nodding*
Me: *wracking my brain* For me personally, I think I will have succeeded as an "artist" if I've reached one person. Just one. And not for anything big. It could be as simple as making someone forget about their stressful day for just an hour while they read. Or you know, like, getting them to feel something. Anything. Happy. Sad. Doesn't matter really. Just like...something, like, yeah. Anything.
Co-worker: *nodding*
Me: *feeling insanely inarticulate* Ummm...yeah. So, what're you writing an essay or something?
Co-worker: My kid is.
Me: Ah. That's a ginormous essay question.
Co-worker: Outlined in-class essay.
Me: Ouch. My inner BA in English self is both excited and terrified.

So, I've had some time to think this over, and I still think it's an insanely huge question, and one that other greater old-school thinkers have probably tackled at length at some point.

I'll admit that I haven't read much philosophy beyond having to write an essay on the Allegory of the Cave, which I likened to a rat stuck in a sewer system (I like choosing classy metaphors. And what's better than choosing a metaphor to describe another giant metaphor?). You might as well ask a question like: What's the relevance of art at all? Or: What is art? Or: Why bother to write fiction? Or play music? Or draw? Or bake or cook? Or dance?

So here is my answer in a slightly more articulate, less sucker punched way. Or at least I hope. I make no guarantees.

 I do believe that in a way, there is art out there that can change the society by shining a light on something we normally, uncomfortably hide away in the dark. Just think of all those Pulitzer winning war photos that practically slap you in the face to make you uncomfortable that yes, there are people out there dying that you so casually have either ignored, or never bothered to learn about. Or a play that shines a light on the horrible bits of racism that still go on. Or a book that chronicles the hard life of a poor Dust Bowl family making their way to California (Yeah, I know I've bitched a lot about having to read Grapes of Wrath three times, but I also see the merit in its story, even if the book made me want to stab myself in the face all three times).

So yes, I think art can have overarching transformative capabilities on society.

But I also don't think many artists intentionally set out to change the world. They're simply sharing their inner vision. It's something that's intimate. It's daring and a whole bunch of scary. It's slapping a tiny bit of your soul out there into the wider world. It's in dealing with your own inner bullshit and emotions in a way that others can see. It's sometimes like a session with a psychologist, only you're using fictional characters, or cerulean blue paints, or a DSLR camera, or interpretative dance, or with tomatoes, carrots and celery, or chord progressions and staccato in F minor.

Or more simply, it's saying 'Hey, this is how I see.' And sharing what you see with others can be transformative, without even realizing it. Without that being the intent.

One of my favorite lessons as a writer was that if you take the same basic story and have it written by five different writers--you'll get five different stories. No one has your vision. Only you can tell the story you want to tell. No matter if you think the story has been told a million-and-one times--it hasn't. Because you haven't told it. Toss a bunch of nutty photographers on the same beach at the same point at sunset, and you'll get different scenes. Have five pianists playing the same impromptu, and you'll get five different interpretations. Ever watch different cooks making the same dish?

Your vision is a thumbprint. It's unique. It's a fucking snowflake in a blizzard.

I also think the only true responsibility of an artist is to be emotive. For those emotions to flow from the artist to the--we'll just call them the absorbers (you know: readers, listeners, viewers, tasters). It's impossible to take a chunk of yourself, mix it into paint or music or writing and not have it be emotional. In fact, it'll probably suck if you don't feel it, if you force it or try to make it trendy, or what you think the absorbers want to absorb. It's why so many writing classes tell you that you shouldn't try to write to a trend, or in a genre you hate. Because if you don't like it, that emotive property is going to make its way into your work, like spilling a bunch of coffee over a page--the stain is going to stay there. I once had a friend tell me when I was performing in a wind ensemble as a wee lass that they could tell just by listening whether or not I felt something strongly about a piece of music by the way I played it--even if I hated the composition itself. That came through.

The point of what you're doing, I think, is to share your own emotiveness, your own vision.

And hopefully you will connect with someone. At the very least--one person. And if that happens, I believe you've met your responsibility as an artist.

So, my darling artists and non-artists alike: What do you think? Do artists have a responsibility to change the world? Is that responsibility small or world-spanning?
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