Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Selling Our Art - and Self-Worth

You may or may not know that I paint. Writing and painting have been plying me with their respective demands since I was a very small child. Over the years I discovered that my paintings had a market, and I picked up a small following of collectors for my naive (and sometimes not so naive) paintings. I remained a writer, but saw - and still see - how very difficult it is to get my particular fictional interpretation of my world into the hands of readers. Painting became my major pursuit. I've been told many times that my pictures are like little stories in themselves, and that makes sense to me as a writer. I don't ask you to examine the image for deeper meaning, but just to follow each story.

This, then, is why painting draws me back again and again, for its immediacy. Whether you buy a painting, or not, you'll perhaps see it, although the selling of it is the ultimate goal for the sake of validation.

I found I had to stop painting six months ago to Get Back To The Writing. I just don't seem able to manage both during the same period. The writing is sometimes painfully demanding, not necessarily a joyful pursuit, and of late I've felt the urge to paint again, because it is happy work. I mentioned this, if you recall, in an earlier posting.

The dilemma is that the writing will be neglected. I feel as if I am watching the imminent departure of an old friend. She is packing, getting her bits and pieces from the bathroom, preparing to leave for the airport. We sit waiting for her cab, trying to make bright small talk, but saddened by the effort. And so it is with my writing.

I am going to write today, determined to complete two more chapters this week. I'm hoping that this will push the painting bug firmly away for a bit longer. I'm not confident, really. Already I've started scribbling out my funny little sketches on scraps of paper. I've been thinking about really big canvases. (And I'm going to need more sealant, as the can I have has dried up.)

Go for it, you say. Paint away and be happy, you say. But here's the bad news. Art isn't selling. I've been looking, watching, researching for months now, and I can honestly say that we artists are hitting a bad patch. It's all very well for me to produce some charming little picture, amusing and colorful, but I need reassurance. That comes from selling. No sales, no encouragement.

If I'm sounding somewhat down today, I'm sorry. For me it's a double-whammy. It's terrible enough for those of us who produce paintings, or other artworks, knowing how difficult it is to sell, regardless of price. (Most of us have tried discounting to get our work out there.)

But for writers, it's the constant reminder, from blogs and news articles, of how poorly the publishing sector is doing. Everywhere I turn, I see some new comment on how very, very hard it is to sell our work.

And so, today, I confess I am discouraged. Artist, or writer, how do we maintain our enthusiasm for our work? It's all very well to acknowledge that just the act of creating is the point, and that we should be grateful to have that gift. But we are also sensitive and fragile, and we need concrete acknowledgment that our work has value.

I'd be very interested to know how some of you feel about this. It's a long posting, and even now I'm not sure I've expressed it completely - the way I'm feeling. Do you suffer from self-doubt when you have no feedback on your work, whatever form that work takes?

Please comment. I am in need of huge amounts of self-worth boosting.

Oh, and Boadicea seems to have gone on R & R. I could use some of her bravery about now...

Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky