For What It’s Worth

Although I work a day job, I try to advance my creative endeavours in fiction and gaming whenever I can. It’s a long slog peppered with occasional setbacks, but I’m determined to realise my dream. One motivational tool I use is to pin up copies of all of the covers of the roleplaying modules I have written, as well as the anthologies and magazines that have featured my work as a reminder of how far I have come. I don’t trumpet it to my co-workers or brag about what I have done; I let the covers speak for themselves (and I have a few more to put up…)

gallery

Last week a co-worker came by my office to talk about something, and noticed my collection. The conversation went something like this:

Colleague: “Hey Geoff, what are all those pictures in your office?”
Me: “Those are covers of all the anthologies my stories are in.”
C: “You write? Cool! I’d love to read them!”
Me: “I’ll send you the Amazon links if you like. All I ask is that you post a review.”
C: “Oh. I was hoping to be able to read them online.” (shuffles away)

******

Like anything else that is worthwhile, art takes a lot of time to create and even more to master. On the latter, I see the skillful demonstration of any craft as being analogous to an iceberg—the part you see is tiny compared to what lies hidden. Basically an iceberg squared, if such a thing could exist. Whatever creative endeavour one pursues, it’s work—and a lot of it:

It’s stewing in one’s creative juices trying to come up with something worthy of making into art.

It’s the first abortive attempts that seem awesome at first, and then appear totally worthless as our confidence and initial creative euphoria erode in revision runoffs.

It’s finally, after many twists and turns, making something that seems to match what we had in our heads…and then submitting it for scrutiny (whether by an editor, a gallery, etc.), only to find ourselves on another emotional rollercoaster where we often question our integrity and value as artists until our work is either accepted or rejected.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

All this to say, any form of artistic expression, whether it is done “for the love” or because the artist is trying to make some money from their craft, requires sacrificing a great deal of time and energy from an all-too-finite pool. And that sacrifice is, in itself, a gesture of love towards one’s craft.

As an artist’s friend, colleague, partner—or even if you’re a complete stranger—you should not, out of respect for that love of craft, dismiss their work out of hand. Approach their work with a curious eye or accepting ear, and above all an open mind. If, in the end, you don’t like their work then give honest, respectful feedback and explain why. Likewise, if there was something about the artist’s work you did like, give them the affirmation they need and tell them so—and post a review.

Above all, if the artist respectfully tells you that they aren’t about to give you their art for free don’t scurry away, because in doing so you are telling them how little value you place on their work.

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