Invulnerability

We live in an age rampant with destructive criticism. Some people call this 'trolling.' Whatever you want to call it, it seems that more and more, as time goes on, people are training themselves to handle it badly. Forums, once a constructive communal idea, are now tornadoes of venom and vituperation. A simple, passive, unaggressive comment might be met with responses ranging from death wishes to all out character-assaults. These responses scare us because they seem well thought out. 

That's because they are. That is what people online are devoting their energy to. Total, arbitrary character destruction.  

I wish I could come up with an armchair pop-psychological conclusion, like their parents didn't hug them or that they don't like their jobs, but that would only be a tactic to make myself feel propitiated as a victim. It also doesn't matter and doesn't do anything. It doesn't change them and doesn't help me, aside from stroking my ego. 

It is as useless to campaign against trolls as it is to campaign against bullying and toasted bread. As long as there are toasters, people will toast their bread. As long as there are people, other people will get bullied.

Bullies don't care if you out them as bullies. If you play the victim, they just laugh.

The same people who troll are the same types of people who have always trolled and they'll never ever go away, I absolutely promise you that. To be anti-troll and anti-bully is as pointless as being anti-pain or anti-sweat. You're going to get them no matter how much you hate them. 

What you need is to become invulnerable to destructive forces in your life. We live in a time when it's incredibly easy to react but reacting is less satisfying than it's ever been. It does nothing for us and does wonders for markets which keep tabs on societal trends and monetize the shrillest demands and the loudest voices. 

Do whatever it takes to become bigger than your anger. I'm not saying to bless them or send them kitten videos. I'm saying turn your anger into something constructive. And whatever you do, do not react on THEIR terms. React only on your own terms. But 9 times out of 10, saying nothing at all is the most pragmatic option. 

Become gigantic in the worth of what you have to say. Remain quiet, in movement and in your mind. Anger lasts for a moment. It can make you fall or it can give you an incredible deal of excess energy. When you choose the latter, it will propel itself long after the emotion which incited it dissipates.  

Suppress nothing. Use everything. Feel what you feel and make a decision. Go forward without regret and never play the victim card. You'll discover very quickly that most problems are illusions of the ego.

Explain Yourself

Don't ever apologize for what you create. As a matter of fact, you shouldn't feel the need to explain yourself, even. How many times have you expliained your work to someone and frowned, surprised at the plasticity of your own answer?

You create the same way you dream. Art is a waking dream. They're equally unexplainable. You may have had ideas along the way, but how many of them changed on paper? 

If you go to university to learn about the arts, they'll provide you with ample ways to dissect every painting, every novel and poem. These methods of dissection will change with the seasons and the intellectual fads. 

You have to turn off that inner noise when you create; that inner classroom discussion. Create only what you can't help but create. Draw a line in between the art you're supposed to make and the art you want to make and part ways with the former forever. Between the two, which are you more likely to regret?

Forgo every need to place your art within a societally relevant context. Let others take care of that. Just make sure you have your I's before your E's and your shading to where you want it and then don't worry. 

Supportive Environment

If your family was supportive of your artwork growing up, you have a strong emotional advantage going forward. You have less baggage and less guilt. You don't have that nagging feeling that you're wasting someone else's time or money. You'll even be more bold in your expression since creativity was always supported in your home.

However, if you're in an environment that isn't supportive of what you're doing, you might want to find a new one. It doesn't have to be family; it could be roommates or even a group of friends who are discouraging you. If that's the case, leave. By all means, do so cordially, pay all the necessary close out bills and find a replacement for yourself if necessary, but leave. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life when it's already hard enough to concentrate on your goals. 

A healthy environment to work in isn't going to fix everything though. You still might encounter people in school or in the workplace who drag you down. Constructive criticism is one thing, but if people are telling you can't do what you love because you haven't had schooling for it, or if someone says your medium is outdated and on the decline, you need to find a way to become invulnerable to this. I can't tell you how. It takes work. 

But change everything that it is within your power to change if it's slowing you down. Make no apologies for what you create.  

Politics In Art

It's hard not to put politics in art. One could say this is the case especially today, but it's always been that way. 

The question is, what is its place in art and does it have a role? I've experienced many pieces of art which seemed to have only the thinnest film separating the viewer from the underlying political message. This is merely propoganda.  

Does that mean one rules politics out completely? Politics is something we are always engaged with in our lives every single day, even if we're not thinking about it. It's going to come out in what we do. The question is, do we want it to drive us or do we want to drive it?

Politics are merely an extension of a value system. Most people only see themselves as political insofar as they follow the tenents of a particular party line. Politics change when value systems change. This is why art that goes out of its way to make a political statement usually doesn't date well.  

If you want to create a piece of art that's going to get people excited and stir lots of controversy, you'll probably focus on a political message. There's nothing wrong with this in itself. you'll get your likes on Facebook and Instagram, but you'll be quickly forgotten.  

Spend some time thinking about the values which drive politics. Create something out of that. Values die harder. Art can be your laboratory to test certain ideas. Dostoyevsky did this. Shakespeare did this. Many artists have a political dimension to their work which simply adds coloring to what is, otherwise, a rich, three dimensional work.  

Create art that explores and which can't be pinned down or hijacked by a particular political narrative.  

 

 

 

 

Giving Away Art For Free

 People are divided on this issue. Of course, you can have it both ways if you want. You can sell some of your art and you can give some away. But what's the issue in either case? It comes down to what your intentions are.

Naturally, artists are prone to give copies of their work to friends and family, whether that be books or prints or any number of things. But maybe you'd like to give away work for free in order to make a name for yourself or to develop a following.  

With electronic media, it's especially easy to do this. You'd obviously be taking a financial hit otherwise, but if you're in a position to do that, more power to you. However, there is an opposite pole to this. If you give too much away fo free, it could potentially limit the general interest in it because people might assume you don't value your work. 

But as I said before, it comes down to your intentions. What are you trying to accomplish? No matter which way you go, it's unlikely that it will happen overnight.  

That's why you might as well continually revisit that aspect of your medium you are most in love with. As long as you keep exploring and finding joy in that, you'll never care about failing or succeeding. Your failures and successes will be be determined according to your own personal scale. 

 

Would You Pay to Create?

It is an encouraging time to be an artist. Social media has provided artists with many tools to promote themselves without the help of agents, publishers, stores and sales.

However, all of these things are fleeting and contingent. There are waves of these good times that come in different forms. At one point, mass-market paperbacks were a revolutionary way for publishers to save money. After a while, the trend shifted away from buying them and, for various other reasons, mass-market paperbacks were only a priority for certain kinds of books.

It's all in flux. Right now, things like Instagram are good for pictures, Smashwords and Amazon are good for ebooks and facebook seems to be beneficial to pretty much every kind of art.

The only problem is that these forms of media come with an ever-changing, strict set of rules which more favor art that is easily digestible. You might find yourself compromising your art in order to fit it into the package favored by a particular medium. After a while, these forms of media will fade away as things do. Maybe it'll take a while, but they won't be around forever.

I say this not to alarm you, but to encourage you to question what it is that causes you to create what you create. Do you create it because you think it is easy and will make you money, or do you create it because you love it? If you just want to make money, that's fine, but don't be surprised when you no longer can. Nothing lasts forever.

However, I would put this question to you. If you absolutely had to, would you pay money to create what you love creating? If the answer is yes, you're probably in the best position. That is not to say you should pay, but it gives you an idea of where you're heart is at. What length are you willing to go to do what you love? Would you create it even if there was a possibility no one would see it?

I don't say this in an attempt to make you isolate yourself from the world, but to keep you from getting discouraged. If anything, having an attitude of creation that comes from a love of the work will keep you coming back to the world even after what would be considered worldly ‘failure.'

Remember, even though these forms of media are contingent, you can adapt. Walt Whitman went door to door selling printed copies of Leaves of Grass. Instagram is great, but what if it's not around forever? Get a website and put up flyers for it where people can see your work. As a matter of fact, your website won't be around forever either. Set up a booth. Put out business cards. The only person who is going to stop you is yourself.

Smashwords and Amazon work great for getting digital copies of your book out, but what if they go bankrupt someday? You can weep, or you can take action. Get a website where you have your own digitally formatted copies of your work available. It will take more work, but it's what you love. Learn how to make books from the bottom up and try making a few of your own. Use a room in your house as an art gallery for your paintings. Have concerts in your back yard or someone else's.

These are all means of making your work available. Most artists would love to have major promotion for their work and that's wonderful. However, just be aware of the fact that all the avenues you could go through have a beginning and will also have an end. All those beginnings happened because someone decided to start out small and put the work in. Always remember that you can do the same. Artists always have many options. If you feel like options are few, create some new ones. Creating things is what artists do.

Hung Up

artists, we sometimes get hung up comparing ourselves to our heroes. No matter how much talent we possess, we often get trapped thinking that we have to make a better version of a work we admire.

As a writer, there are many works in which I recognize something I admire, and which I have, in the past, wanted to capture for my own work. Sometimes it's good to have models, but they can also become a burden and weigh you down. There were plenty of directions my own work could go at times, as I like my work to be somewhat spontaneous, and yet, I've often found myself too strongly identifying my work with someone else's, even when I made a conscious decision not to.

If you have this problem, there are two things I would advise you to do. First, put aside that work which you too strongly identify with for a time. It might grow in your mind into something mythic and larger than life, but eventually, it'll pass from your memory with some concentration. Focus on what you like about your own work and what you're trying to accomplish. Let it grow organically.

Next, after a while, go back and revisit that work which you too strongly identified with. After a break, you might find that, while you still enjoy it, it is not necessarily a masterpiece-that a human, not even a human genius, created it (9 times out of 10, anyway).

You can also research and get a little background on the work in question. You'll often discover that the work you were obsessed with was created by someone who was in turn obsessed with the work of another person. Get yourself familiar with the works that inspired the one that inspired you. This way, you'll get a fuller picture of what the artist you admire was trying to do, and you can also consider yourself, rather than a simple copycat, someone who belongs to a tradition of a certain kind of art, only this way you'll have more variables from which you can draw inspiration.

I'd like to hear in the comment section below from anyone who has been through something similar. Let me know what it was like.

Time Off

Is your entire life devoted to your art? If so, forget about success. You don't have anything to worry about. You're already 100 steps ahead of most people who call themselves writers and painters and actors but spend very little time actually doing those things.

But has your art become your life? When you finish a project and send it in to the publisher, or when you finish a painting for finish recording an album, do you feel relief, or are you simply anxious that you aren't working on anything new? Perhaps this is a sign that you need to slow down.

Maybe you belong to a different group. You might find that you have ideas in your head but they don't come out very well on paper, or that you're excited in only a thin, intellectual fashion but you feel none of that passion while you're working.

Emile Cioran has a phrase that pertains to this situation with artists of all kinds. It is, ‘working against death.' An artist with a real sense of value in his own work is the opposite of the one who produces, gets discouraged and gives up for long stretches of time. There are lots of very fevered artists who spend inordinate amounts of time doing nothing but creating. They drain themselves completely dry in fear that one day it will all suddenly end and they won't be able to complete those major works they envisioned in their heads. Death becomes the enemy of their greatness, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. There is so much to do and so little time.

I have a few thoughts to consider instead of obsessing about this.

First of all, no one knows when they're going to die. Logically, if you knew, would that help your art? It would probably make your life a nightmare. If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would that help you prioritize your art? Would you say to yourself, ‘Okay, I'm going to create the best piece of art anyone has ever taken a single day to create,' or would you focus on what matters and enjoy that last day?

It's more than likely that the reason you're struggling and obsessing about how much longer you have to complete a project is that you've been creating so long you forgot how to live. Everyone's life is different, but most people create because creation is a product of life. Sometimes, as we artists get older, we completely forget how to live and program ourselves only to work. We think we're adults now and that we need to treat our creation like a job. We associate the word ‘job' with that thing that helps us pay the bills.

Now, I admire a sense of discipline and one's having a high standard for their work, but what good will it do you if you alienate yourself from the world? You'll forget how to make art that anyone will relate to, because at that point, you yourself won't even relate to it.

The idea of the poor, starving artist who writes or paints all day in a studio in a big city and can't afford to go out or do anything is romantic, but in reality, artists who only create art are either unhappy people or geniuses whose lives no one would realistically covet in any sane circumstances.

Give yourself time to enjoy life. If you're a musician and you want to make music that produces extraordinary emotional effects, think about where those emotions come from. They come from everyday life. They don't come from the studio. If you're a painter, where is the imagery coming from? Are you spending time out in nature or observing the world? A poet who spends all his time in one room, nursing the thoughts in his own mind is the most boring kind of poet. Likewise, a novelist who only writes about the twists and turns of the shadows and of his various drives and hungers doesn't have much longevity.

I would hardly wish for this to sound like a condemnation of art in favor of life. You don't have to chose. Just allow room for both.

Here's another way of looking at it. You weren't born practicing that kind of art you create. You acquired it. What did you do before that? Maybe you learned it early in life, you'll tell me. However, as a child, you played, didn't you? You enjoyed yourself. You went outside and didn't come back in until your parents called you for dinner. When you started creating, it was probably something you enjoyed doing; simply another activity you used to fill your time with. In other words, your art was a product of your general enjoyment of life and the many things it is possible to partake of.

If you're stuck in a creative rut, or if you're afraid you're going to burn out, I would encourage you to take time off. It doesn't have to be long, but it doesn't have to be short. You decide. It can be an afternoon off where you decide you'd like to just go see a movie or spend all day in coffee shops reading. Go on a hike and get high enough into the mountains to where you can't hear traffic anymore. Remember what it is about life that inspired you so much that you ended up with this surplus of energy that resulted in your creating art.

You'll start seeing things differently and you'll build your energy to work back up. Sometimes you need to stop working so you can re-learn how to live. Excuse this hoaky phrasing, but after a while, you realize how much your life can be an art and how much your art can resemble life. They become intertwined and represent just many angles in your kaleidoscopic experience.

Don't worry about whether or not you deserve time off. Don't worry about what people are going to say, or what you're going to do. Just enjoy yourself. Learn how to store up and better distribute your creative energy. When you return to your work, you'll find that it goes smoother.

Your Art's Life Force

Are you stuck on a creative work because you no longer feel passionate about it? It happens to many creative people. I'm not going to tell you to ‘never give up.' You have to ask yourself a question, if this happens to you. What were your motives for starting it in the first place? Perhaps it was an incredibly exciting idea, you felt it best represented how you saw the world or what you wanted to put into it, or perhaps it was just the work you wanted to tell people you were working on or what you thought you should make.

If you discover that it's something you felt like you should make, rather than something you wanted to make-which happens to artists from time to time, almost as though there is another self inside of us we're trying to impress-you might consider altering the project to better suit your needs or dropping it altogether.

However, if it's a project you felt good about at one time, you might want to ask yourself where it went wrong. Were you letting certain inhibitions take hold of you? Were you trying too hard to compete with one of your heroes by answering them move for move or by directly structuring your work after theirs? Are you simply holding back because you don't want your work to drift into whimsicality or into uncharted waters? It might be all or none of these things.

The point is, you were excited about the work and you are no longer. I've had this happen to me with a book I was writing for years and am still working on. I was worried that the storyline was going stale. The book was a long one, and as I kept writing, I realized that nothing was happening. It didn't have any of the energy I wanted it to have. The characters weren't clicking, the story wasn't extreme enough or moving enough to me.

Having taken some time away from it, I came back to it and realized that I had been saving up all my best ideas and timidly withholding them from the story. It was as though I was saving all the best stuff for some later book.

I forced myself to think about the book in a detached way. What were the best set of images and ideas I had thought up so far? How could I embellish them? What techniques had I been excited to try but which had faded out of the picture in favor of how I thought the book should be written? What were my themes and had I picked the best vehicles to embody them? I thought about what I needed to do to make it a book that, by its mere description alone, would be something that I, personally, would want to read before anything else.

The book had been alive in my head before I sat down to write it, but with time, it started to lose its life force. Sometimes you have to go back to that excitement and find its life force. To be less mystical and more specific, you have to change the work in order to please you again. If it's an idea that you've been invested in for a while, it's possible that you're just looking at it through a fog of discouragement and ego.

If you invest time into going back and finding that original force of excitement for you in your work, you won't have to worry about whether or not you have the stamina to finish it. You'll do it because the activity is pleasing to you. You won't fret if you miss a day, for you'll feel the work tugging at you.

You may need discipline in the beginning. I've mentioned in another post that, if you're starting out as an artist, you might want to set yourself a quota. However, I think everything I've mentioned in this post is important too. A quota won't mean anything at all if you get halfway through the project and have absolutely no excitement for it.

Don't be afraid of the project changing too much. That'll happen if you're trying to make something that fulfills you. Allow room for change. You can always look at the project in its entirety later and change what you need to.


Shane Eide

Why You Don't Need a Flashy Ebook Cover

It's easier than ever to self-publish. Since there are so many people doing it, there is a lot of advice on the internet about what to do and what not to do and yet I never hear the advice I'm about to give you. In fact, I often hear the opposite. People often say you have to put the money down for a good, eye-catching ebook cover.

I've spent a lot of time looking at the higher-cost ebook covers people have pre-made, or just the samples of what designers have to offer. Often, they look professional, but most of them are of the same style. They seem to suggest that more is better. There's an overwhelming color scheme and there're usually people or characters depicted.

I would offer the opposite advice. I would say, while you might want your cover to be eye-catching, it doesn't need to be so busy, that is, not if you don't want it to. If you're like me and you've never heard of a book's author before, you're more than likely going to be attracted by the title. If it's original or suggestive of something you'd be interested in, then you might read the synopsis on the back. Only then is the cover interesting to me. If fact, the cover might not even be interesting until I've read a sample page or two.

Also, if you're like me, you appreciate simple covers. If you like a lot of dead authors, you might be pretty used to reading books with a two-color scheme: one for the title and author name and another for the background. Sometimes, that's all you need. Maybe you want to incorporate a small photograph you took and put it on your ebook cover.

I won't get into it here, for this isn't necessarily a how-to blog, but you can make your own ebook covers for free in photoshop and paint. I'm told this is a no-no, but you can do it and it'll save you a lot of money. A simple cover can still look professional. Also, at the moment, if you're publishing through Amazon's personal publishing platform, they have an ebook cover-making program which allows you to upload your own images, use stock images, and play around with the background color.

Also, people seem to try to over-compensate when it comes to ebooks. They want the flashy cover and the pristine format because they feel they need to prove that this is a real book. But you don't need to prove anything to anybody. People often forget that traditionally printed books, if they're good and if publishers think they're worth selling, come out with multiple editions of the book, and usually, with new additions come new covers. Why not treat it the same for your ebook?

If you're just starting out, and unless you have a one-hundred percent fail-safe method for self-promotion (which nobody has) you're probably going to start off selling your book to friends and family. You can always use some of that royalty money to buy a better, flashier ebook cover later with a new edition, if you like. Most platforms allow you to change the cover pretty easily. I have a firm conviction that good promotion and a memorable title can go further than a flashy cover. Will not having a flashy cover prevent people from looking at the book? It might, but I really don't feel like it would prevent that many-at least, not enough to warrant putting money down for expensive cover-making software or hiring someone else to do it for you.

I just thought I'd offer my opinion. As I said before, I won't get into dos and don'ts here, but I should warn you that you'll have to do some research. Depending on the platform you're publishing through, they might have different requirements as to the dimensions of the JPEG file you're using for your cover, which will affect how big you can make the font for the title and author name, as well as the imagery. I'm not going to tell you something like ‘Never use quirky or cursive font,' because maybe that's your thing, but I will say the letters should be bigger, since most eyes are only going to skim over a thumbnail image of your book. I personally like big, blocky letters people can easily read.

Other than that, feel free to make your cover as simple or as complicated as you like. You can always change it when it's in that early pre-print stage.


Shane Eide

Multiple Projects

You've probably heard people say that if you're working on a book, or another creative project, you should put everything you have into it and focus on one thing at a time so as not to get burnt out.

This, I am certain now, only works for some people. If you're like me, you're restless in your projects. If you're excited about more than one project at a time, work on all your ideas. You don't have to be equally far along on each one.

There are different reasons for doing this. Some people get bored writing one book and go to work on a short story or even another novel length work to get them going. Other people consciously set one aside for a while after they've finished a first draft so that they can work on something else. This allows them to let the first manuscript cool so that they can come back to it with different eyes.

As for myself, I enjoy working on more than one book at a time. My books and projects are all so different in tone that I like visiting those tones and moods when it suits me. Also, as different as all these projects are, I wade around in the same few themes, and I feel like my books have lessons to offer one another, if you will. A theme that might be only discussed in one book might actually turn into an allegorical story structure in a different book. I also might write a straightforward essay on this already-used theme for The Burning Block (an upcoming magazine from Emergent Hermit). I work on more than one thing because, I get bored, because I want to come back to a work with fresh eyes later and because I just enjoy that freedom.

I think everyone has to do what works for them. I certainly don't disparage anyone for working on one project at a time--there are certainly benefits. But don't let anyone tell you that's how you should do it. Why should you? Do you think a publisher is going to sniff your manuscript and say ‘I think this suffers from the impurity that comes with multi-tasking.' No, they'll either like it or they won't. What's the worst that could happen? Someone will judge you? If that's your most primary, undefeatable concern, then you might as well lie. Tell them you're only working on one project if that makes you feel better.

Then, you might ask, how often do I switch between them? To some people, switching projects this often would be tantamount to an artistic identity crisis. If you think it would be too hectic or whimsical to sit down each day and figure out what you feel like working on, you might try a program. Work on one project on certain days and another project on other days. Maybe you'd like to work on one project for a whole week and switch it out the next week, the next month, even the next day.

Personally, I don't have a problem working on more than one book or project in a day. I don't always have time to do this, but it's certainly not an inhibition anymore. But, as with everything, figure out what works for you. Don't be afraid to try different things. One thing it's easy to forget as an artist is that the final product is what matters. Don't get so wrapped up in your process that you think the work is suffering simply because you're not having an easy time of it. You'll get there with time and patience. Allow yourself room to breathe and enjoy yourself when you work.


Shane Eide

The Notebook As Stimulant


I wanted to write about one possible remedy for staleness in your process or, perhaps, full-blown writer's block. Maybe as you write, whether it's an essay or a novel or a blog post, you find yourself slowing down. You sit there with your pen and paper or at your laptop looking at the hours pass and you only write three sentences of which you are ashamed or which bore you to death. If you're like me, perhaps you feel a lot of restless energy and eagerness to work, but you can't focus.

I would recommend keeping a notebook or journal for times like this.

Write whatever you want in it. Write about your life like a regular diary. Write about how much your boss pisses you off. Write fantasies about rear-ending that guy in traffic who cut you off earlier (don't actually rear-end him). Write ideas for novels, stories, posts and essays. Write about your frustrations over having nothing to write. Write about your excitement for projects to come, or what you hope to accomplish with current ones. Talk about your ideas on life, love and death. Become an armchair philosopher. Write as though no one will ever see it. Write fragmentary things, even pieces of fiction or notes to yourself, or love letters to someone or even to yourself. Write encouraging words to yourself and others.

The very worst that could happen is that you'll end up writing something you intended to write in another format. That's not bad for a very worst case scenario. Feel free to relentlessly plagiarize yourself. You might sit down to work one day and realize you did most of your work already just by jazzing around and doing what feels like goofing off, writing nonsense, which then turned out to make sense.

Turn your notebook into your own personal ritual of cleansing, fulfillment and stimulation. Write notes and excited words until that energy spills over into your other projects. Let go of as many format, aesthetic and structural inhibitions as possible. Your notebook is not the place for that. If you're a writer, draw pictures in between your notes to diffuse some of that inner tension. If you're a drawer or painter, write notes in the margins. Make up jokes and maxims to always remind yourself of certain truths about the creative process that speak to you. Transcribe vapid phrases which make you laugh that someone in a coffee shop said at the next table over. Find that sense of inner freedom, and keep finding it until you can allow yourself to work again.

If you can't work on anything else, make this activity your work until you figure it out. Do this as long as you would normally work on a real project, and when you're out of steam, consider your work done for the day. You did enough. Not only did you do enough, you did more than most people do.

An artist must allow him/herself a great many concessions in order to complete the arduous task of squeezing energy into a digestible format for others. It's important to find ways to make yourself work under the conditions and in the spirit that is the most agreeable to you.


Shane Eide

Quotas


If you're starting out working in a new art form, you might find it so stimulating and exciting that you want to work on a new project all the time. You might burn so strong that, given time, you crash. You might look at other artists you admire and get discouraged that you haven't reached their level. Perhaps you're still excited about the idea of working, but the days are stacking up behind you in which you haven't produced anything at all.

Don't get discouraged. Figure out a realistic quota. This is hardly an original idea, but I thought I'd talk about it anyway, as its important for new artists and long-practicing artists alike. I'll emphasize that this is not an absolute rule; not everyone needs a quota. However, it might be a stimulating practice to help you see your work piling up consistently.

I'll bring it to writing, which is the art form with which I'm most familiar. If you're working on a novel, a practice many artists of the last few centuries have taken up is to write 1,000 words a day. Page lengths always vary, depending on what format you're writing in and how the book is being laid out, but 1,000 words usually comes to about three or four pages. I've even heard some writers say that 500 words is plenty in the beginning. The point is, make it a realistic goal you think you can meet on a daily basis.

You'll have to decide what quota works for you based on what kind of text you're producing. If it's narrative-heavy fiction, 1,000 words might be just enough or too much. You may be able to produce 500 words each day and post it right then and there, or maybe you'll write 2,000 words, comprised of three or four blog posts for the future.

You'll also have to decide what you want to accomplish in this 1,000 words (or however many you choose). Do you want these 1,000 words to be basically ready for publication like Anthony Burgess? Or will you do like Stephen King and write 2,000 words but go write more polished drafts later?

You can apply quotas to other arts too. It'll be different of course. If you're a musician, do you want to come up with two new riffs each day? Write a set of substantial lyrics each day? Both? Do you draw or paint? Are you trying to get one sketch done each day or are you trying to finish an entire painting? A half painting? You make your own rule.

But what I think is the absolutely most important thing to emphasize is that you should never be afraid to change and never get discouraged by not meeting your quota. No one is standing over you telling you to finish. You're not going to get worse over night because you went to the river with your friends and stayed out until dark. You might be driven by your need to work, but don't beat yourself up for writing 800 words when you should have written 200 more. You have to know when a certain rule doesn't work for you anymore, or when you should throw rules out the window altogether, or when you should just go to sleep that night and try again the next day.

As for myself, I used to work according to a quota but I don't any longer. I enjoyed it in the beginning. I watched pages stack up each day. I actually did this for years until very recently. However, it started to bog me down. It stopped working for me. Now I write when I have time and feel like it (I also work on more than one thing at once, which can greatly disrupt the idea of quotas, but I'll discuss that in another post). Getting over discouragement for not meeting your daily quota is one of the hardest things to get over. For me, it was harder than realizing that certain pieces of my work were of low quality. That's why you have to figure out what works for you.


Shane Eide

Introduction to Emergent Hermit's Blog

Thank you for taking the time to read this first blog post from Emergent Hermit. The purpose of this blog will not only be to update readers about publications released by Emergent Hermit and upcoming events, but to also offer tips and encouragement to artists from all walks of life. Having spent years on creative projects myself, I have no particular formulas for success as I am still learning too, nor do I necessarily have any how-tos or rules to offer. However, I do have a few ideas, possible suggestions and thought experiments to entertain which I feel might help loosen your creativity. I have long been interested in the creative process in general and would like to discuss it consistently, for as technology changes, as the various businesses surrounding art evolve, it can be an arduous task to try and maintain artistic integrity while producing work and marketing oneself.

My intention is that the tone of this blog will not be too businessy or focused on financial results, not that these topics are reprehensible in some way, but because I would like, rather, to focus on those aspects of one's work that best lead to one's personal fulfillment with it in and of itself, and also fulfillment in the midst of the actual process, which can be the most daunting part. We hope you follow us in order to enjoy, find encouragement, or contribute your ideas.


Shane Eide